Is Mexico City really an oasis for LGBTI rights? Conversion therapy ban and LGBTI political rights as recent trends

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Hector Sanchez
Greenberg Traurig, Mexico City

Well, I don’t know if I would go as further as call it an oasis, but certainly it is the city within the country with the most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) rights protected, and worldwide is ranked among the cities with more legal protection on LGBTI matters.

As a bit of background, Mexico City started its right pad protecting LGBTI rights in 2009, when it became the first city in the country to allow same-sex marriages. Today, 18 out of 32 states allow same-sex marriages. In 2009, Mexico City also recognised adoptions by same-sex couples.

Next, I would like list some of the rights protected in Mexico City either thanks to federal laws or local legislation as I consider that not many people are aware of all the achievements that the LGBTI community has accomplished in Mexico:

  • Discrimination based on sexual orientation is criminalised in the Criminal Code of Mexico City.
  • National Constitution establishes that discrimination based on ‘sexual preferences’ is prohibited.
  • Hormonal treatments for sex change processes are included in Mexico City Health Law.
  • The Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination prohibits discrimination in employment and lists ‘sexual preferences’ as a protected class.
  • Federal legislation on consumer protection prohibits discrimination based on ‘sexual preferences’ in the provision of goods and services.
  • Mexico City civil registry allows the issuance of new birth certificates for the generic sex reassignment without the need for a trial.
  • The Supreme Court has determined that same-sex couples have the full right to social security.
  • No restriction to donate blood for LGBTI individuals.

Conversion therapy ban

The most recent big legal achievement for the LGBTI community in Mexico City happened in July 2020 when Mexico City Congress approved a bill amending the Criminal Code of Mexico City to criminalise conversion therapies.

Conversion therapies are any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression through a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to achieve such changes. Conversion therapies can range from psychological counselling to religious practices and even sexual abuse in an effort to ‘change someone’. These practices have been condemned by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the United Nations.

With this ban added to local criminal code, Mexico joins a reduced list of approximately 16 countries in which there are partial, regional or national bans preventing these practices. Such list includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Spain, Uruguay and the US, among others.

The Mexico City reform seeks to penalise practitioners of conversion therapy, and the relevant provision in the code specifies the criminalisation of ‘practices consisting of psychological, psychiatric sessions, methods or treatments that are intended to nullify, hinder, modify or impair the expression of gender identity, as well as the sexual orientation of people’ with enhanced sentencing if the victim is a minor.

Any medical practitioner who is caught offering treatments to ‘cure’ an LGBTI person’s identity will now face up to five years in prison.

It is important to mention that some other states in the country are following the momentum and are trying to pass similar bills. The state of Mexico, which borders Mexico City and together creates the so-called ‘megapolis’, also enacted in October 2020 a bill to prohibit conversion therapies.

LGBTI political rights in the light of the electoral process of 2021

In November 2020, the Electoral Institute of Mexico City (‘IECM’) issued a guideline that highly recommends and incentivises political parties with registration at the local level to postulate at least two candidates of the LGBTI community for the electoral process of 2021.

Also in 2019, the General Council of the IECM approved the Trans Protocol to ensure that during the electoral process in 2021, the transgender community of the capital city can exercise their right to vote. The intention, according to the protocol, is the non-discrimination of people whose identity is discordant with that of their voter ID and who belong to the trans community. The document adds that officials may not, in any way, ask voters for justifications of gender identity.

Additionally, local requirement, in the criteria approved a few days ago by the National Electoral Institute, it is mandatory for all political parties to nominate as candidates for the House of Representatives (Cámara de Dipuados) at least three candidates of the LGBTI community in any of the 300 federal electoral districts; two for direct voting and one more for proportional representation.

Conclusions and disclaimers

Although it is true that the long road that the LGBTI community has faced and its fight in Mexico City has served to conquer the many diversity rights that we have today, this does not mean that the mentality of citizens has changed along with the laws. There is still a lot of work to do both in Mexico City and in the country, and there are still many rights to fight for such as those related to sexual education on diversity matters in public schools, those related to gender identity or the ones connected to social security for partners.

Please note that this article is referring to the numerous LGBTI rights that Mexico City offers but by no means is intended to refer to the social condition of the LGBTI community in the city; as in almost any part of the world homophobia and hate crimes are still a big fight to win and we are in the path to eliminate any kind of discrimination.