LGBT rights in Bolivia

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LGBT rights in Bolivia
Bolivia (orthographic projection).svg
Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status 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 are legal in Bolivia. The Bolivian Constitution bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, making Bolivia one of the only few countries in the world to have such constitutional protections for LGBT people. While same-sex marriage and civil unions remain constitutionally banned in Bolivia, the country is legally bound to the January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, which held that same-sex marriage is a human right protected by the American Convention on Human Rights. In 2016, Bolivia passed the Gender Identity Law, seen as one of the most progressive laws related to transgender people in the world.

Nevertheless, reports of discrimination against LGBT people are not uncommon. In 2017, the Bolivian Ombudsman reported that 64 LGBT people had been murdered in the country that year, of which only 14 cases had been investigated and none which resulted in a sentence.[1]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity is legal.

The age of consent in Bolivia is set at 14, per Article 308bis, Violación Infantes, Niña, Niño y Adolescentes, which punishes rape (violación) 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.[2]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Article 63 of the Constitution limits marriage and free unions ("uniones libres") to opposite-sex couples.[3]

In July 2010, following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Argentina, Vice President Álvaro García Linera said that the Government had no plans to legalize same-sex marriage.[4]

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.[5][6] However, the bill was not approved.[7]

In July 2014, Bolivia's public advocate Rolando Villena called for same-sex unions to be included in the country's new Family Code.[8] 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 same-sex couples many rights that heterosexual couples enjoy. The Code was approved in the House of Representatives and was enacted in August 2015.[9] 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 same-sex 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling[edit]

In January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the American Convention on Human Rights mandates and requires the recognition of same-sex marriage. The ruling was fully binding on Costa Rica and sets a binding precedent for other Latin American and Caribbean countries including Bolivia.[13]

Discrimination protections[edit]

LGBT flag map of Bolivia

Article 14(II) of the Constitution of Bolivia, implemented in February 2009, prohibits and punishes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.[14][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.[15]

Article 23 of the law, amended the Penal Code. Therefore, Article 281 of the Penal Code now criminalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, it also bans "dissemination and incitement to racism and discrimination", stating 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]

Despite these protections, reports of societal discrimination against LGBT people are not uncommon.[16]

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.[17]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Article 84 of the 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 couples in a free union.[18]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

On 25 November 2015, a law was proposed that would allow transgender people to change their legal name and genders.[19]

On 19 May 2016, the Chamber of Deputies of Bolivia passed the Gender Identity Law. One day later, the Senate passed the measure by simple majority votes.[20] On 21 May 2016, the bill was signed into law by Vice President Álvaro García Linera.[21] The law took effect on 1 August 2016.[22]

The Gender Identity Law allows individuals over 18 to legally change their name, gender and photography on legal documents.[23] A psychological test proving that the person knows and voluntarily assumes the change of identity is required, but sex reassignment surgery is not. The process is confidential and must be carried 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 cannot modify these data again.

In October 2016, the Bolivian Congress debated whether to repeal the Gender Identity Law.[24]

In June 2017, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal issued an instruction in which it notified the Civil Registry Service to proceed with the registration of marriages of transgender people. The instruction stated that transgender people who have made the changes regulated by the Gender Identity Law may enter into civil marriage.[25] In November 2017, the Supreme Court of Bolivia invalidated the section of the law allowing transgender marriages, ruling it unconstitutional.[26] LGBT groups filed an appeal with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in May 2018.[27]

Military service[edit]

The Armed Forces of Bolivia announced in 2013 that LGBT citizens would be allowed to serve beginning in 2015.[28] Bolivia also allows transgender people to serve openly in the military.[29][30][31] Despite this, homosexuality in the military is still viewed as taboo, and LGBT individuals may want to remain discreet about their sexual orientation or gender identity.[32][33]

Blood donation[edit]

Article 16 of the Supreme Decree 24547 of 1997 establishes the permanent prohibition of homosexual and bisexual persons from donating blood.[34]

In June 2016, the Ombudsman asked the Government to amend the Supreme Decree 24547 of 1997, stating that the Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.[35]

Public opinion[edit]

A 2013 Pew Research Center opinion survey showed that 43% of Bolivians believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 49% believed it should not.[36] Younger people were more accepting: 53% of people between 18 and 29 believed it should be accepted, 43% of people between 30 and 49 and 27% of people over 50.

According to Pew Research Center survey, conducted between 7 November 2013 and 13 February 2014, 22% of Bolivians supported same-sex marriage, 67% were opposed.[37][38]

In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, an LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI). Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society’s view on homosexuality, how do they experience the way they are treated by other people and how satisfied are they with their lives. Bolivia was ranked 48th with a GHI score of 47.[39]

A poll conducted in June 2015 found that 74% of Bolivians did not support same-sex marriage.[40] However, the same poll found greater support for same-sex marriage among younger people and residents of La Paz.

According to a 2017 poll carried out by ILGA, 60% of Bolivians agreed that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should enjoy the same rights as straight people, while 17% disagreed. Additionally, 64% agreed that they should be protected from workplace discrimination. 26% of Bolivians, however, said that people who are in same-sex relationships should be charged as criminals, while a plurality of 45% disagreed. As for transgender people, 64% agreed that they should have the same rights, 63% believed they should be protected from employment discrimination and 53% believed they should be allowed to change their legal gender.[41]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes[42]
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)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil unions) No (Pending; legalisation required per a 2018 IACHR ruling)
Same-sex marriage No (Constitutional ban since 2009; legalisation required per a 2018 IACHR ruling)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No (Legalisation required per a 2018 IACHR ruling)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No (Legalisation required per a 2018 IACHR ruling)
Adoption by single LGBT person Yes
LGBT people allowed to serve in the military Yes (Since 2015)
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 Archived 4 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.):

    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. ^ (in Spanish) El amor libre se abre paso en Bolivia a base de activismo
  2. ^ What is the Bolivia Age of Consent?
  4. ^ (in Spanish) "Gobierno boliviano no tiene en sus planes aprobar el matrimonio gay", Sentidog, 17 July 2010
  5. ^ (in Spanish)"El Parlamento boliviano estudia ley para reconocer concubinatos homosexuales",, 11 April 2012
  6. ^ (in Spanish)"Proyecto para aprobar matrimonios gay entra al Legislativo",, 9 April 2012
  7. ^ (in Spanish) Séptimo Día. Matrimonio homosexual, aún no hay debate en Bolivia. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Bolivia's Public Advocate Calls On Government To Allow Same-Sex Civil Unions"
  9. ^ (in Spanish)"Nuevo Código de Familias boliviano da derechos a uniones del mismo sexo"
  10. ^ Código de familia plantea que la fidelidad sea un deber conyugal
  11. ^ (in Spanish) El MAS se abre a debatir la unión gay en el Legislativo
  12. ^ (in Spanish) Entregan propuesta sobre parejas del mismo sexo
  13. ^ "Inter-American Court endorses same-sex marriage". Agence France-Presse. Yahoo7. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  14. ^ (in Spanish) Constitución Política del Estado
  15. ^ (in Spanish) Ley Contra el Racismo y Toda Forma de Discriminación Archived 4 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bolivia, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, page 18
  17. ^ Opinion, Diario. "Plantean 30 años de cárcel para crímenes por homofobia". Diario Opinión (in Spanish). 
  18. ^ "CÓDIGO NIÑA, NIÑO Y ADOLESCENTE LEY Nº 548" (PDF). Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  19. ^ Bolivia proposes law allowing transgender people to officially change names, genders
  20. ^ Senado sanciona Ley de Identidad de Género en medio de cuestionamientos de la Iglesia
  21. ^ Bolivia promulga Ley de Identidad de Género
  22. ^ "En un mes 50 transgénero y transexuales cambiaron su identidad en Bolivia" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  23. ^ Bolivia Approves Progressive Law Recognizing Transgender Rights
  24. ^ (in Spanish) Aprueban matrimonio igualitario en Alemania y para personas trans en Bolivia
  25. ^ (in Spanish) Confirman validez de matrimonios de transexuales y transgénero en Bolivia
  26. ^ (in Spanish) En Bolivia es ilegal las bodas entre personas del mismo sexo
  27. ^ (in Spanish) Colectivo LGBTI de Bolivia destaca Ley de Identidad de Género y Evo garantiza el libre ejercicio de sus derechos
  28. ^ Villar de Onis, Jimena (September 27, 2017). Aldo Campana, ed. "GFMER Sexual and Reproductive Rights Country Information - Bolivia". GFMER Sexual and Reproductive Rights Country Information. Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved November 23, 2017. In 2013, the Armed Forces of Bolivia announced a change in policy, allowing LGBT citizens to serve in its ranks starting 2015. 
  29. ^ Elders, M. Joycelyn; Brown, George R.; Coleman, Eli; Kolditz, Thomas A.; Steinman, Alan M. (April 1, 2015) [Article first published online 2014]. "Medical Aspects of Transgender Military Service"Paid subscription required. Armed Forces & Society. 41 (2): 199–220. doi:10.1177/0095327X14545625. scholars at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies have published a comprehensive study of rules governing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender service in 103 countries ... we are grateful to its authors, who provided us with their data indicating that 18 nations allow transgender military service ... The 18 confirmed cases are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom. 
  30. ^ O'Connor, Tim (26 July 2017). "Trump's Transgender Military Ban Leaves Only 18 Countries With Full LGBT Rights in Armed Forces". Newsweek. Retrieved 26 July 2017. 
  31. ^ "DC court bars Trump from reversing transgender troops policy". Washington: Associated Press. 30 October 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2017. 
  32. ^ Militares y homosexualidad: los avance y tabus en los otros paises de Latinoamerica Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  33. ^ "Militares gay, entre la discriminación y la clandestinidad en FFAA de Bolivia" (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  34. ^ "DECRETO SUPREMO Nº 24547". 
  35. ^ (in Spanish) Defensor exige al Gobierno modificar decreto que prohíbe a transexuales y transgénero donar sangre
  36. ^ The Global Divide on Homosexuality
  37. ^ Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes
  38. ^ Religion in Latin America Appendix A: Methodology
  39. ^ The Gay Happiness Index. The very first worldwide country ranking, based on the input of 115,000 gay men Planet Romeo
  40. ^ Bolivia: 74% rechaza matrimonio gay y 67% se opone al aborto
  41. ^ ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey ILGA, October 2017
  42. ^ "Age of Consent in Latin America", QMaxine, 19 November 2013