LGBT rights in Venezuela

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LGBT rights in Venezuela
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1997
Military service Yes
Discrimination protections Originally protected in 1999, though removed due to pressure from the Catholic Church
Family rights
Recognition of
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Venezuela may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in Venezuela, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Homosexuality has never been punishable since Venezuelan independence. However, under the "Vagrants and Thugs' law" (Ley de vagos y maleantes) (pre-criminal behavior laws as in place in Europe and Latin America during the 20th century). In Venezuela, contrary to Spain, this law did not refer expressly to homosexuals. However, it was occasionally applied to homosexuals and transgendered individuals engaged in prostitution, as well as sex workers in general as reported by amnesty International.[1] People submitted to this law by "administrative measures" could be placed under "re-educational programs" in special "confinement places" without trial, as has also happened in many other countries, including Spain.[2] This law was declared unconstitutional by the former Supreme Court of Justice in 1997.[3][4] The universal age of consent is equal at 16.[5] The age of consent in Venezuela stands at 16 regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. Sexual acts with children aged between 12 and 16 are punished under Article 379; furthermore, consensual sex with a woman 16-21 can be punished if the woman was "seduced" under the promise of marriage and she was "known to be honest".

Artículo 379 del Código Penal Venezolano:[6]

" El que tuviere acto carnal con persona mayor de doce (12) y menor de dieciséis (16) años, o ejecutare en ella actos lascivos sin ser su ascendiente tutor ni institutor y aunque no medie ninguna de las circunstancias previstas en el Artículo 375, será castigado con prisión de seis a dieciocho meses y la pena será doble si el author del delito es el primero que corrompe a la persona agraviada.

El acto carnal ejecutado en mujer mayor de dieciséis (16) años y menor de veintiuno (21), con su consentimiento, es punible cuando hubiere seducción con promesa matrimonial y la mujer fuere conocidamente honesta ; en tal caso la pena será de seis meses a un año de prisión.


Approximate translation: Article 379: "Anyone who engages in sexual acts with a person aged at least twelve (12) but less than sixteen (16) years or performs lewd acts with her, without being an ascendant or guardian and in the absence of any of the circumstances described in Article 375, shall be punished with imprisonment of six to eighteen months and the penalty is doubled if the offender is the first who corrupts the victim.

The sexual acts performed upon a woman older than sixteen (16) years and younger than twenty-one (21), with her consent, are punishable if there was seduction with the promise of marriage and the women was known to be honest, in such case the penalty is six months to one year in prison.


Recognition of same-sex couples[edit]

There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples explicitly in the Venezuelan law.

In 2003, a gay NGO called Unión Afirmativa (Affirmative Union) submitted an Appeal to the Supreme Court for legal recognition of economic rights (pensions, inheritance, social security, common household, etc.) for same-sex partners. The ruling, issued on 28 February 2008 despite recognizing that "same sex partners enjoy all of the rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights- they do have not special protection similar to concubinage or marriage between a man and a woman, that is, in the same terms than heterosexual partners have. Notwithstanding this, the National Assembly is the government body with the mandate to legislate to protect such rights for same-sex partners. The decision also indicated that these rights were covered under the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

On 20 March 2009, Chamber of Deputies member Romelia Matute announced that the National Assembly would explicitly legalize same-sex unions and recognize them as asociaciones de convivencia (association by cohabitation)[7] as part of the Gender and Equity Organic Law.[8] This initiative was never discussed. Further other initiatives concerning this subject and recognition of identity of trans population were submitted by the civil society to the National Assembly, but no formal discussion has ever take place.

Anti-discrimination legislation[edit]

Poster demanding same sex union rights in Venezuela.

Discrimination in labor on the basis of "sexual option" was outlawed in the 1996 by the Rulings of the Labour Organic Law (Ley Orgánica de Trabajo) (art 9). In 2010 the Organic Law of Work and Workers prohibited discrimination on the grounds only of sexual orientation (but not gender identity).

In the process leading up to the adoption of the new 1999 Venezuelan Constitution, anti-discrimination provisions were proposed; however, due to forceful opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, they were dropped from the final draft. In 2001, there were renewed attempts to include them in the Constitution. In 2002, then-President Hugo Chávez voiced his regret for their exclusion, signaling that they may be included in future rounds of constitutional reform.

The Venezuelan constitutional referendum in 2007 would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation but both of the two reform packages, which covered a wide range of social and economic measures, were narrowly defeated.[9]

Civil society has proposed to the National Assembly to legislate on equality since 2009 to 2015, the proposed anti-discrimination laws have never been considered in the agenda.

Living conditions[edit]

Transgender women in Bobure beach, Zulia State.

Venezuela is home to a thriving gay community. Since 2000, International Day of Gay Rights has been marked, while recently the government began participating in Gay Pride Day for the first time. However, police harassment and homophobia in the workplace remain as serious problems.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1997)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 1996)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No(Pending)
Recognition of same-sex couples No/Yes Civil unions in Mérida
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No (Pending)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No (Pending)
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 1999)
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]