LGBT rights in Bolivia

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LGBT rights in Bolivia
Bolivia (orthographic projection).svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Yes
Gender identity/expression Right to change legal gender since 2016
Discrimination protections Yes
Family rights
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage not allowed
Adoption Married and single people allowed to adopt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Bolivia may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in Bolivia.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity is legal.

The age of consent in Bolivia is set at 14, per Article 308 Bis, Violación Infantes, Niña, Niño y Adolescentes, which punishes rape (violacion) of children under 14, "even without the use of force or intimidation and when consent is alleged" (así no haya uso de la fuerza o intimidación y se alegue consentimiento). There is a close in age exemption of three years.[1]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Article 14(II) of the Constitution of Bolivia, implemented in February 2009, prohibits and punishes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.[2][Note 1]

Anti-discrimination law[edit]

The Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination, defines discrimination as “any form of distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on sex, colour, age, sexual orientation and gender identity, origin, culture, nationality, citizenship, language, religion, ideology, political or philosophical affiliation, marital status, economic, social or health status, profession, occupation, level of education, disabilities and/or physical disabilities, intellectual or sensory impairment, pregnancy, origin, physical appearance, clothing, surname or other that have the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by the Constitution and international law.” It also provides definitions for homophobia and transphobia.[3]

Article 23 of the law, amended the Penal Code. Therefore, Article 281ter. of the Penal Code criminalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, Article 281quarter. on "dissemination and incitement to racism and discrimination" states that anyone who “through any means broadcasts ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, or that promote or justify racism or any kind of discrimination on the grounds described above; or that incite to violence or persecution of people, based on racist or discriminatory motives, will be imprisoned from one to five years.”[Note 2]

These protections, however, are not always carried out.[4]

Hate crimes law[edit]

No laws condemn hate crimes against LGBT people in Bolivia. In May 2016, the LGBT rights group Colectivo de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales y personas Transgénero presented to the Plurinational Legislative Assembly a draft law against hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which includes a penalty of 30 years imprisonment.[5]

Recognition of same-sex unions[edit]

Article 63 of the constitution limits marriage and free unions ("uniones libres") to opposite-sex couples.[6]

In July 2010, Vice President Álvaro García Linera said that the government had no plans to legalize same-sex marriage.[7]

In April 2012, a member of the opposition coalition, the National Convergence, introduced a bill in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly to legalize same-sex civil unions.[8][9] However, the bill has not advanced.[10]

In July 2014 Bolivia's public advocate Rolando Villena called for same-sex unions to be included in the country's new Family Code.[11] On 16 October 2014, the Bolivian Senate passed a revised Family Code that did away with any gender-specific terms. Couples had hoped that this may open the door to giving gay couples many rights that heterosexual couples enjoy. The Code was approved in the House of Representatives and was enacted in August 2015.[12] The new Family Code made no mention of gender to do away with discrimination, but it was clarified that it has no legal weight to apply to gay couples, as a separate law is needed. LGBT rights groups have begun asking the government to pass a law so they may finally be recognised.[13]

In April 2015, the country's Vice President stated that "sooner rather than later" a discussion on same-sex partnerships would happen in Bolivia. This statement was followed by the Senate President's comments that the Government is open to discussing the idea although the initiative is not on the current agenda. Both the leading party MAS and the opposition have expressed being open to dialogue on the issue.[14]

On 21 September 2015, the country's largest LGBT rights group handed the Bolivian Assembly a bill to legalize same-sex unions under the term "Family Life Agreement". The Family Life Agreement proposal seeks to grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples with the exception of adoptions.[15]

Adoption of children[edit]

Article 84 of Law No. 548 - Child and Adolescent Code, allows single people to adopt children, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, joint adoption may only be requested by legally married couples or in a free union.[16]

Transgender people[edit]

On 25 November 2015 a law was proposed that would allow transgender people to change their legal name and genders.[17]

On 19 May 2016, the Chamber of Deputies of Bolivia passed the Gender Identity law. A day after, the Senate passed the measure by simple majority votes.[18] On 21 May 2016, the bill was signed into law by Vice President Álvaro García Linera.[19] The law took effect on August 1, 2016.[20]

The Gender Identity law allows individuals over 18 to legally change their name, gender and photography on legal documents.[21] A psychological test proving that the person knows and voluntarily assumes the change of identity is a requirement, but gender reassignment surgery is not. The process is confidential and must carry out before the Civil Registry Service. The processing of the new documentation will take 15 days. The change of name and gender will be reversible once, after which they can not modify these data again.

Military service[edit]

The Armed Forces of Bolivia does not officially allow LGBT people to serve openly. Despite the Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination, there is no inclusion. Homosexuality in the military is still considered taboo.[22][23]

Blood donation[edit]

Supreme Decree 24547 of 1997, establishes in its article 16, the permanent prohibition as blood donors to homosexual and bisexual persons.[24]

Public opinion[edit]

According to Pew Research Center survey, conducted between November 7, 2013 and February 13, 2014, 22% of Bolivians supported same-sex marriage, 67% were opposed.[25][26]

A poll conducted in June 2015 found that 74% of Bolivians did not support same-sex marriage.[27] However the same poll found greater support for same-sex marriage among younger people and residents of La Paz.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes[28]
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2009-2010)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2009-2010)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2009-2010)
Hate crimes laws covering both sexual orientation and gender identity No (Proposed)
Gays allowed to serve in the military Emblem-question.svg
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil unions) No (Pending)
Same-sex marriage No (Constitutional ban since 2009)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Adoption by single LGBT person Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2016)
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples Emblem-question.svg
MSMs allowed to donate blood No (Permanent deferral since 1997)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The official text of Article 14(II) in Spanish (Constitución Política del Estado):

    El Estado prohíbe y sanciona toda forma de discriminación fundada en razón de sexo, color, edad, orientación sexual, identidad de género, origen, cultura, nacionalidad, ciudadanía, idioma, credo religioso, ideología, filiación política o filosófica, estado civil, condición económica o social, tipo de ocupación, grado de instrucción, discapacidad, embarazo, u otras que tengan por objetivo o resultado anular o menoscabar el reconocimiento, goce o ejercicio, en condiciones de igualdad, de los derechos de toda persona.

  2. ^ The official text of Article 281ter. in Spanish (Ley Contra el Racismo y Toda Forma de Discriminación):

    La persona que arbitrariamente e ilegalmente obstruya, restrinja, menoscabe, impida o anule el ejercicio de los derechos individuales y colectivos, por motivos de sexo, edad, género, orientación sexual e identidad de género, identidad cultural, filiación familiar, nacionalidad, ciudadanía, idioma, credo religioso, ideología, opinión política o filosófica, estado civil, condición económica o social, enfermedad, tipo de ocupación, grado de instrucción, capacidades diferentes o discapacidad física, intelectual o sensorial, estado de embarazo, procedencia regional, apariencia física y vestimenta, será sancionado con pena privativa de libertad de uno a cinco años.


  1. ^
  2. ^ (Spanish) Constitución Política del Estado
  3. ^ (Spanish) Ley Contra el Racismo y Toda Forma de Discriminación
  4. ^ 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bolivia, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, page 18
  5. ^ Opinion, Diario. "Plantean 30 años de cárcel para crímenes por homofobia". Diario Opinión (in Spanish). 
  7. ^ (Spanish) "Gobierno boliviano no tiene en sus planes aprobar el matrimonio gay", Sentidog, 17 July 2010
  8. ^ (Spanish)"El Parlamento boliviano estudia ley para reconocer concubinatos homosexuales",, 11 April 2012
  9. ^ (Spanish)"Proyecto para aprobar matrimonios gay entra al Legislativo",, 9 April 2012
  10. ^ (Spanish) Séptimo Día. Matrimonio homosexual, aún no hay debate en Bolivia. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  11. ^ "Bolivia's Public Advocate Calls On Government To Allow Same-Sex Civil Unions"
  12. ^ (Spanish)"Nuevo Código de Familias boliviano da derechos a uniones del mismo sexo"
  13. ^ Código de familia plantea que la fidelidad sea un deber conyugal
  14. ^ El MAS se abre a debatir la unión gay en el Legislativo
  15. ^ Entregan propuesta sobre parejas del mismo sexo
  16. ^ "CÓDIGO NIÑA, NIÑO Y ADOLESCENTE LEY Nº 548" (PDF). Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  17. ^ Bolivia proposes law allowing transgender people to officially change names, genders
  18. ^ Senado sanciona Ley de Identidad de Género en medio de cuestionamientos de la Iglesia
  19. ^ Bolivia promulga Ley de Identidad de Género
  20. ^ "En un mes 50 transgénero y transexuales cambiaron su identidad en Bolivia" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  21. ^ Bolivia Approves Progressive Law Recognizing Transgender Rights
  22. ^ Militares y homosexualidad: los avance y tabus en los otros paises de Latinoamerica
  23. ^ "Militares gay, entre la discriminación y la clandestinidad en FFAA de Bolivia" (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  24. ^ "DECRETO SUPREMO Nº 24547". 
  25. ^ Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes
  26. ^ Religion in Latin America Appendix A: Methodology
  27. ^ Bolivia: 74% rechaza matrimonio gay y 67% se opone al aborto
  28. ^ "Age of Consent in Latin America", QMaxine, 19 November 2013