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The Plurinational Constitutional Court of Bolivia (TCP by its acronym in Spanish) has declared Paragraph II of Article 11 of the Gender Identity Law, whereby transsexual and transgender people are prevented from exercising “fundamental rights”, such as marriage or child adoption, among others, as being unconstitutional.

By: Marlene Caero Herbas

On Thursday, November 9, LGBTI and activists were shocked by the news on the Constitutional Court of Bolivia’s ruling, whose sentence 0076/2017 declares Paragraph II of Article 11 of the Gender Identity Law as unconstitutional. The paragraph refers to the “Exercise all fundamental, political, labor, civil, economic and social rights” by the people who benefit from this Act. It is therefore understood that transsexual and transgender people are not allow to marry, adopt children, access quotas in power structures; it could even go all the length to the right to health, as well as labor, political and cultural aspects.

According to the general secretary of the TCP, Álvaro Llanos, the ruling recognizes the change of gender identity as constitutional with regards to the name and image of the person, but that does not include all of the rights.

This action responds to an appeal on grounds of unconstitutionality filed with the TCP on October 12, 2016, by Plataforma por la Vida y la Familia (Platform for Life and Family) together with the MPs Horacio Poppe, Lenny Chávez and Grover Huanca, against articles 1, 3, 10, 11 and 12 of the Gender Identity Law.

After learning the ruling, MP Horacio Poppe, who filed the unconstitutionality action, shared the following in his Facebook account: “The family is protected in Bolivia. We have just been notified so by the Constitutional Court in the ruling declaring the unconstitutionality of Paragraph II of Article 11 of the Gender Identity Law. Same sex marriage WILL NOT BE ALLOWED in Bolivia, and, in the long run, neither will be the adoption of children by GLBT couples. They may change their Identity, but never get married. The family is reserved for a man and a woman capable of reproducing and raising their own offspring.”

Regarding the ruling, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Gabriela Montaño, reacted, “As president of the Chamber of Deputies, that constitutional sentence seems to be a huge setback in terms of law; actually, what it does is limit the exercise of labor, civil and political rights. All of these are rights that people exercise individually. Who gets affected when a citizen exercises his or her right? Absolutely anyone. I think it’s a terrible setback for the country as a whole because, actually, the Gender Identity Law was not intended to rule only upon the procedure for getting an ID card. Why would anyone want an identity card that is useless when it comes to exercising their rights? (…) In addition, in the content of the sentence we find a language that, from our point of view, seems to go five centuries backwards; it is not possible that a situation of this kind is taking place in our country at this point in history (…). She also mentioned that she will perform a detailed and technical review of the sentence.

The news immediately mobilized members of the LGBTI collectives in Bolivia, who demonstrated against the unconstitutionality action through the media and social networks.

“We are embarrassed that in Bolivia, being a country with high rates of violation of rights, today our fellow transsexuals were given a civil death – because their rights are being taken away: their rights to having a political life, the right to study, to work, to do all kinds of things that any of us probably are able to do. We will bring this to the highest international levels, we will go to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (…)”, said Alberto Moscoso, member of Coalibol LGBT, who also pointed out that activities will soon start to demand the repudiation of the religious fundamentalists who made the claim of unconstitutionality of the law.

According to members of the LGBTI collectives in the country, the marriage ban – an issue much highlighted by the news – is a matter of form, because this goes beyond, because, based on the ruling, the fundamental rights to which anyone should have access will be slashed.

“I’m a living dead. I’m dead civil-wise because I cannot exercise the right to work, I cannot have community property, I cannot rent a place to live – All the rights that any other person can enjoy, are denied to me,” shared César Javier.

“(…) If I enroll (in a university), as a trans person I will not have that right (to education). Therefore, since trans people in Bolivia no longer have rights, Bolivia has regressed. It is a country that is no longer the same as it was yesterday because it is a country where human rights are violated, and we feel embarrassed to have a Constitutional Court like ours,” said Chantal Cuellar, member of Trebol nework.

RedLacTrans supported its colleagues in Bolivia with a letter signed by her Regional Coordinator, Marcela Romero, at the end of which states: “We urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to urgently review the unconstitutionality ruling of the constitutional court and take all the necessary measures so that this retrograde sanction, result of the influence of anti-rights movements, does not move forward”.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia there are divided opinions on this decision, some in favor and others against it. And many others are left with the great doubt posed by the ruling, which recognizes the Gender Identity of trans people in the change of name on their documents, but not the exercise of their rights.

Update (November 14): On November 11, national networks expressed their rejection of the ruling through a statement available here.


May 21, 2016. Enactment of the Gender Identity Law in Bolivia. You can read more here:

1 August 2016. Name change procedures for transsexuals and transgender people begin. You can read more here:

October 12, 2016. Members from the Plataforma por la Vida y la Familia (Platform for Life and Family) and from the chamber of deputies file an appeal on grounds of unconstitutionality of the Gender Identity Law before the TCP.

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