Author: alexadark

Ella Global Community / Articles posted by alexadark

Larissa is a lawyer and master in human rights. She is president and legal advisor of the association ACCEDER, Strategic Action for human rights. She also works as an interim professor at the University of Costa Rica and is a legal advisor for the organization Front for Equal Rights (Frente por los Derechos Igualitarios). She participates in numerous local and international litigations as a litigant and adviser.

Kristin Hansen, ELLA CEO&Founder, interviewed her:

 

Please tell us a little bit about you, where are you from , where do you live, what do you do?

My name is Larissa Arroyo Navarrete. I am an activist for Human Rights, bisexual and feminist. I was born in Costa Rica and although I lived some years in Mexico and France, my life, my career and most of the people I love are in my country of origin. I am a lawyer specialized in human rights, gender and diversity.

I have a degree from the Faculty of Law of the University of Costa Rica, two post-graduate Diplomas from the Center for Human Rights of the Faculty of Law of the University of Chile: “Human Rights and Women: Central America” ​​and “Human Rights and Women : Legal Strategies for Advocacy “, a Master’s Degree in Human Rights from the State University of Costa Rica, and I am a graduate of the Master’s Degree in Constitutional Justice from the University of Costa Rica.

I work as director of the ACCEDER Citizen Association and also a legal adviser to the FDI, Frente para los Derechos Igualitarios, a Costa Rican collective focused on actions for effective access to the rights of the LBGTI population in Costa Rica. Additionally, I am an expert consultant in human rights, gender and diversity, teacher in masters and human rights graduates and author of academic and opinion articles as well as the blog “La Letra Justa” in the newspaper La República that deals with issues of discrimination, violence and Human Rights.

Please tell us more about Costa Rica’s history and about the current situation for LGBTIQ within the country.

Costa Rica is a country that likes to project itself internationally as respectful of Human Rights but currently does not allow equal marriage, does not have data on hate crimes because they are not classified as crimes and generally does not provide care to LBGTI people and less to lesbian and bisexual women. The initiatives to protect us find many barriers based on religious beliefs. This year the Inter-American Court of Human Rights told him with an advisory opinion that he had to provide the same legal status to all the people but the Costa Rican state did not want to implement it.

Please tell us more about the association ACCEDER, what you do and what are the current projects.

ACCEDER is a Costa Rican organization dedicated to promoting strategic actions for Human Rights as political and legal advocacy, national litigation and before the Inter-American Human Rights System as well as the Universal Human Rights System, capacity building and knowledge of rights, research and Strengthening of the political leadership of women for the advancement of human rights in Costa Rica.

We are currently working on the advisory opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as it is the tool with the highest legal status that for the first time recognizes us at a conventional level rights for LBGTI persons. We have also been developing together with other organizations and activists an agenda of rights and needs of lesbian, bisexual and non-heterosexual women as we dilute ourselves in the great bag of LBGTI. Everything we do is based on the particular need to eradicate discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation and therefore we focus on women and people LBGTI
 As you know we are planning an ELLA event in Costa Rica in 2019, what would be your hopes for this event?

My hope is that it is a massive event in Costa Rica, which will be positioned in the media as a unique event, not only because of the connotation of sexual diversities, but above all because we are lesbian and bisexual women, the most invisible ones, particularly in relation to to our needs but also with regard to the place we occupy in the world, especially the public.

 When did you find out that you like women and how was your coming out?

I always say that I never had to leave the closet. I never had to open a door because one day a window appeared and I simply continued with my life, I no longer liked only men but I was also attracted to women. My story of how I discovered that I was bisexual was very different from the stories I’ve heard. I was never in the closet because I had never been attracted to a woman until around my 30s for the first time I was attracted to one.

By that time I was an activist so it seemed to me that the most natural thing was to be as public as with my male partners. My mother distanced herself from me for a month and then told me she loved me and that was it. She accepted the two female partners I had as she had always done with the past ones. I would like all lesbian and bisexual women to have a beautiful story in which they are accepted and loved by their close ones and family.

 

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am a feminist and activist so there is not a day and time of the week where I am planning not actions to claim the human rights of women and LBGTI people. This is not a good practice. It is necessary to self-care. Because of this, I try to make time to travel and to do activities that I like very much like watching horror movies, making brunches and dinners with my friends, writing an article, among other things but the things I enjoy the most is the pleasure to do nothing in the company of my dog ​​Jarbito. The art of doing nothing is undoubtedly something that activists have a hard time practicing but that is necessary to survive.

Tell us about an event that marked you a lot.

Two years ago I became an aunt. It was a wonderful and painful experience at the same time. I discovered more closely that motherhood is not what one is told, that there is a lot of violence against women before, during and after childbirth, that we feel vulnerable and unprotected, because although I was not the one who had to experience it in my own flesh, feeling that the life of my sister and my nephews was in my hands because they were in a vulnerable condition marked me a lot.

 

Thank you Larissa!

See you at#ELLACostaRica2019!

 

You are the founder of the association Colectiva IrreversibLes. Could you tell us a bit about how you set up a lesbian women’s rights organisation in Costa Rica?

 

I founded it with other friends in November 2011. It has not been easy, I spent several years trying to establish a specific organisation of and for lesbians, that represents our needs, makes an impact on public policies so that the specificity of being lesbian is taken into account and receives the necessary attention. There is also the very important issue of rescuing our historical memory, that history, both of our movement, and about our peers; this you cannot find in the official history books.

It involved talking with many peers, making several calls to get things going, until I managed to have three friends from the National University (we studied the same career), and three other friends, interested. Finally, we got together and started the journey of founding the Collective, we defined the name and the organisation’s objectives, which established the direction and given us the way forward.

 

What have been de the greatest challenges of the lesbian movement in Costa Rica and Latin America?

 

I would say that there have been many, and very similar throughout the region: gaining visibility of our existence; un-doing myths, stereotypes and taboos of between what a lesbian is thought to be and what it means to be a lesbian.

Building our own identity, creating positive references, and the recognition of our rights and access to public health services, education, employment, housing, matrimony, as women, lesbians and other intersectional aspects that make up our identities such as: being of afro or indigenous descent, maternity, being from a rural area, social economic background, just to mention a few.

We also face the challenge of being able to evidence the discrimination we face, as lesbian women are made invisible. In my opinion, this form of discrimination and rendering lesbian women invisible is structural as we are a threat to the system.

 

lesbiana costa rica

 

What role does the lesbian women play within the LGBTI movement?

 

In my opinion lesbian women remain in the background, almost invisible. The main protagonists in the LGBTI movement are gay men and trans women, not because lesbians don’t fight, but because within the movement there is a reproduction of the patriarchal and macho system.

With so much diversity the specificity is lost and even more so if you are a woman who disrupts the patriarchal system. For example, when the recognition of equal marriage is raised, there are those who define it as gay marriage and in the collective imagination it is referred to the existence of couples between men only.

 

When did you know that you liked women? Could you tell us about your experience when you came out of the closet?

 

When I was about five years old, I had a recurring dream: I dreamt that I was getting married with my classmate from kindergarten school. Since I had no reference other than the heterosexual one, I blamed it on the Catholic church. She was wearing a white dress and I was wearing a dark suit, and the most sexual thing I could imagine was to hold her hand. I did not even think about kissing her, maybe just on the cheek. This is where I realised that something was happening to me that I could not tell anyone, because I knew that somehow it was not ‘normal’, that it was ‘bad’. I never spoke about those dreams until a few years ago.

But that “taste” for women followed me into my adolescence. I even consulted a psychologist, who told me that bisexuality was a normal stage in adolescence and that it would pass. Because in those days my life was so complex, I turned my energy and focus to develop my political life: I campaigned with the Youth of the Costa Rican People for peace in Central America. I discovered that I was in love with my “best friend” although I tried to justify those feelings for her in a thousand ways. And then I had “boyfriends” as was expected of me, but I never took them seriously. For some of them I felt affection, but they were not what I really wanted.

Then I traveled for a year out of my country where I fell in love with another woman. Of course nothing happened, I only dreamt of her… Upon my return to Costa Rica, in my rational logic, I said to myself: “If I already kissed a man, I should now kiss a woman, to see what it feels like and figure out what I like more” (and I talk about kissing because I never had sexual relations with men, I was never interested in doing it); I did it and to be sure of what I felt, I said to myself again, “I already kissed a woman, now I should kiss a man again to see how I feel” and well I did that too. Result there was no doubt, I liked women and since then, I began to understand and accept it. I was about 18 years old.

And as I carry activism in my veins, the first thing I did was to contact the lesbian feminist group Las Entendidas, because I wanted to join them and take part in the struggle for my condition as a woman, as a feminist, as a lesbian.

I was 19 years old and it was clear to me that we had a great struggle ahead of us to obtain respect and our rights, and this led me to become an organiser for the second Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encounter, held in Costa Rica in 1990. I mention this because as a result of taking part in that event, my mother was informed of my attendance. She confronted me and for me this was my “coming out”. It was not easy at almost 20 years of age, at the beginning of the nineties, for a mother to accept that I was a lesbian and that that was the life that made me happy. But it was good that it happened, as since that time I can freely express my sexual orientation.

 

emma chacon lesbiana costa rica

 

Being an openly lesbian woman in Costa Rica, have you suffered much discrimination in the social and professional spheres?

 

I believe that I have suffered discrimination and it was manifested in different ways. The first that I remember explicitly, was in 2009, when I applied for a candidacy for deputation. A note was circulated among those who had to vote choose that said “Remember that Emma is a lesbian”. Four years later, in 2013, I present my candidacy again and I was told that because I was a lesbian I did not have much support and finally I was not elected.
Another manifestation of discrimination has been in the workplace, where I was being harassed. This became evident after I participated as a special guest, in 2014, in the hoisting of the diversity banner in the Ministry of Culture for the first time, which led to a labor transfer.

Finally, I may have experienced other manifestations of discrimination because of my feminist lesbian status and maybe I have not been able to recognise them, because often discrimination is experienced as something “normalised” or you no longer know if it is because you are a woman or a lesbian or Feminist or all the previous ones … What I have felt are attitudes that show levels of lesbophobia. After many experiences and years of struggle, it is clear it is clear that the problem is lies with lesbophobic person, not against an individual per se.

 

Do you have any memories or personal experience that marked you significantly?

 

I consider myself a daughter of the struggles for peace in Central America, which took place in the eighties, as well as the heir of a long family trajectory of being on the side of social justice, dialogue, equality, non-discrimination and respect; which has led me to be an activist, politician and be involved in social movements since my adolescence and all this has led me to have many moments that have marked me, but today I can point to two specific moments.

In April 1990, at the second Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Lesbian Encounter (ELFLAC II), the first time I took part in an event that was attended by lesbians from many countries, a space to share, talk about and from us, from our needs, of our rights, of our forms of organisation and how to face the violence we are subjected to, from the State, the media, from religious hierarchies. This was an experience that culminated with the explicit manifestation of violence. During the last night, when we were about to start the closing session of the event, we were attacked by a rain of stones and balls by a group of men who threatened to enter the venue.

It was a difficult time, that filled me with fright, of feeling unprotected, even though we were about 200 lesbians. But I came out with more conviction, with more energy and strength. I knew that that the struggle would not be easy, but that it was the right one; we must keep gathering, we can build a better world for all people. The system reacted because it tried to keep us silent, to ensure that we did not become visible or get together, as we realised that together we can do a lot.

April 2015, 25 years after the ELFLAC II, I presented the report “A historical memory of the Costa Rican lesbian movement from 1970 to 2014” at the Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Costa Rica, in the Benefit Room at full capacity. This was a dream fulfilled, to tell our story through the narrative of 26 women, about what our organisational forms and struggles for our rights have been.

 

But above all, to be able to leave a document that shows that we have arrived here, because there have been many other lesbians who have fought, who have risked their lives, so that we, and perhaps the youngest ones, can enjoy walking in the street holding hands, to be able to express their affections in public; that other lesbians, before us, already opened the way for us and that we continue to open paths for future generations. That, even 25 years before, the same State persecuted us and that, 25 years later, we could be openly and publicly presenting a report on the history of the lesbian struggle. It has simply been one of the most significant moments, on a personal level, as an activist, as a lesbian and as a feminist.

 

In Costa Rica, marriage equality is not yet legal or recognized. How does the absence of this fundamental right impact lesbian couples?

 

It has terrible impacts on the lives of lesbians, because we have already had situations where one of the couple is hospitalised and the family members do not allow the partner to enter, even some have not been able to say goodbye to their partners, or attend a funeral.

Many others have had their assets seized upon becoming a widow, assets that were built together with their deceased partner. Others have not been able to claim their economic rights, at the end of the relationship, when the patrimony has been constituted by both.

Those living in poverty have not been able to access State benefits, such as accessing housing loans. In other situations, when there are daughters and sons and the biological mother dies or the parents separate, there is no protection so that they can continue to be a family.

 

What are your hopes for the future of lesbian women’s rights in your country? Do you believe that they will achieve equality?

 

Well … hope is the last thing that is lost …

I think that we will obtain equality. I believe that even if the road is long, it is less long than it was 30 years ago. We are at a complicated political moment in Costa Rica, with some fundamentalist, backward and opportunist deputies; as well as some magistrates who do not believe in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, because they do not follow their resolutions or answers, when it comes to the human rights of women or LGBTI populations. But I do believe that equality will be achieved, because societies, in principle, evolve.

 

What advice would you like to give to women who are afraid to come out of the closet?

 

First I would say: that I understand your fear, that your decision is respected. But I would also tell you that life must be lived without fear, that it is best to be honest with yourself, that coming out is liberating, that not all people will react positively, but that over time you will realise that freedom is better than living in hiding. To those for whom it is not possible to do so, because of the environment they live in, I would like to let them know that they can count on me, and count on someone close to you who will love you for who you are. I will fight for all those who cannot fight, so that one day we can all be free and happy.

 

Entrevista a Ruth M. Linares Hidalgo

 

What led you to fight for the rights of women living with HIV?

In my soul this fight bears a name: Luis Felipe

You have made important advances in public health policies and the rights of women living with HIV in Costa Rica. Could you tell us briefly about the most important events and achievements of this inspiring story?

Our organisation was born in 1999 and legally constituted in 2004.
We achieved inter-institutional agreements with the main government institutions such as INAMU, C.C.S.S., IAFA, among others.


We are referents in political advocacy processes in those spaces where the decisions that affect our humanity are made. From the Executive Branch we achieved the signing of several executive directives and decrees for the benefit of the population living with HIV, in poverty and extreme poverty and gained the effective and integral attention of the C.C.S.S.


We participated in the elaboration of guidelines to carry out a rapid HIV screening test for the high-risk population, among others.


From the legislative power we obtained the unanimous affirmative opinion of the Human Rights Commission to include in the substitute text 19243 of the reform of the HIV law, the motions that include sexual and reproductive health, referral and reference processes, human rights and non-human rights, and violence against women. We are moving forward with this motion until it is official instituted as law.

 

Ruth Linares Hidalgo con Ana Helena Chacón y Myrtille Danse from Hivos

Reconocimiento al apoyo y compromiso con la causa de las mujeres con VIH de la ex vicepresidenta Ana Helena Chacón por Ruth Linares Hidalgo y Myrtille Danse from Hivos

What does your work as President of ICW Costa Rica consist of?

Being President of ICW-COSTA RICA is seeing a dream come true. Every effort made over the past 20 years has made it possible to:


We respond to the lack of support, information and services available specifically for women and promote the participation of our members in the development of policies.

We build a network of empowered women.

We empower ourselves regarding life, politics, social culture; we prepare ourselves with tools to solve our needs and influence where the decisions that define our humanity are made.


We strengthen community work with ICW’s self-support and empowerment groups in the 7 provinces of Costa Rica.


We implement a model of political advocacy with women living with HIV at the national level and with local governments to defend their human, sexual and reproductive rights in the face of any form of discrimination and violence.


We carry out prevention and awareness campaigns on human, sexual and reproductive rights for HIV prevention, discrimination and violence against women.


We establish inter-institutional agreements including the CCSS, clinics and HIV care commissions that provide opportunities for women living with HIV to improve and develop their quality of life.

 

Ruth Linares Hidalgo in a speech representing women with HIV

Ruth Linares Hidalgo in a speech representing women with HIV

Part of the activities of ICW Costa Rica include the ‘Game of Life’ workshops led by Empowerment Groups that are replicated in several provinces across the country. The workshops offer women living with HIV psychological support that allows them to accept their diagnosis and regain hope in life. What makes this project so successful?

The success of this project is due to the methodology used, which touches the core and the reality of the life of each of the participants and gives them tools to find light in the path of their lives. This added to the fact that most of the women here come from many situations of repression, violence, little listening and attention given to them.
The simplicity of the program means that, for the first time, the inner child can express herself, can speak and reflect on her fears and the obstacles that she herself has imposed.

 

How has your experience been as a woman living with HIV who occupies a public and political position in your country?  

I consider myself a successful woman, I am clear about my path, I believe in what I do and I prefer to make mistakes rather than doing nothing out of fear. My work in the public and political sector is not the product of a “diagnosis” but of my work and the experience of almost 20 years as an activist and leader in the defense of human, sexual and reproductive rights and the fight against violence against women.

 

Women living with HIV are often victims of exclusion, discrimination and violence. What advice would you give the lesbian community to strengthen their community in the face of the exclusion and discrimination that lesbian women experience?

I would tell them: Trust in the power they have as women; build their life projects based on their dreams and convictions, that their lives are not defined by what others will say, nor by their sexual preferences; that when they write their life story, it does not matter if the sheet is blank, or which chapter they are writing; NEVER, under any circumstances, allow anyone else to hold the pen.

 

manine arends from hivos, ruth linares hidalgo

With Manine Arends from Hivos and Kattia Elena López Araya in one of the program for women with HIV in Limón, Costa Rica

In your opinion, how do you see the situation of gender equality in the Central American region and beyond? How does inequality affect the most vulnerable and excluded women?

The reality and context of our region, regarding the equality of women, is not always reflected. We are unaware of the difficult economic, political and social conditions that our countries are going through, which are expressed in the deepening of poverty and inequality, and the crises of our political crises, democratic and financial system.
The only reference made to women’s rights is the one of economic growth and sustainable development. However the human rights dimension is ignored, which is the basis for gender equality.


States must protect human rights defenders and the environment, and severely punish the persecution and violence they suffer by demanding respect for their rights to land, territory, production and natural resources, including the total protection of indigenous peoples.

We must ensure access to a public, universal, comprehensive, secular, inclusive, quality education to people throughout their lives, seeking to overcome patriarchy, gender stereotypes, and multiple forms of discrimination and violence against girls, adolescents and women, as well as adopting policies to avoid early school abandonment, early pregnancy and early marriages, which impact on life projects, access to adequate living conditions and labor and social inclusion.

The region is experiencing a humanitarian crisis marked by waves of migration that must be recognised and addressed with policies that are based on solidarity with gender, race and age. Women’s and feminist organisations must continue to raise the flag and demand from the governments of the region to commit to leave no one behind, let alone half of the population – women and girls.

 

What are your expectations for the ELLA Inspiring International Lesbian Conference that will be held in May 2019 in Costa Rica? 

I hope that the event will highlight the reality of women living with HIV and establish sorority partnerships and alliances that will work to transform the reality of women in Latin America.

 

  1. You are the Latin American Director of a renowned Dutch international development foundation called Hivos which, amongst other topics, has been fighting LGBTI rights for over 20 years. Can you tell us a little bit about the Foundation’s approach and its major successes in this field?

 

Hivos seeks new and creative solutions to persistent global problems; solutions created by people taking their lives into their own hands. We offer a positive counterbalancing force against discrimination, inequality, abuse of power and the unsustainable use of our planet’s resources. Our mission is to innovate for social change. With smart projects in the right places, we work towards more open and green societies.

 

One of our six thematic areas is sexual rights. We strive for a world where everyone, independent of their sexual orientation and gender identity, has control over their own bodies, their sexual identities and their relationships. We therefore aim for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, people living with HIV, and sex workers to make use of newly acquired skills, capacities and relevant support structures to actually claim their rights. The flip side of the coin is that we want the societies in the countries where we work to recognize and accept all sexual orientations and gender identities. Some examples of programs can be found at: https://www.hivos.org/focus-area/sexual-rights-and-diversity/#programs

 

  1. Your role at Hivos carries a lot of responsibilities. What does a normal day look like for you at the office?

 

I manage the regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean. The regional office is based in Costa Rica, but we also manage the local offices based in Guatemala, Bolivia., Ecuador and Brazil. In total we have ninety people staff working in the region and an annual budget of 20 million euros. Our global office is based in the Netherlands. Due to the 8-hour time difference, my day often starts at five in the morning with calls with my colleagues in the Netherlands. After I drop my two sons at their school I arrive at my office. I coordinate my day with my assistant and my operations manager.

 

The day is very diverse. I have meetings with my program managers on the progress of the programs they are implementing on sexual rights, freedom of expression, women empowerment, sustainable food and sustainable energy. I attend any safety issues related to our local staff and partners in countries where political issues are going on. I meet with my program development managers to discuss new strategies, opportunities for collaborations with other parties, and funding strategies. I also meet with our partners to discuss their work, their needs and their suggestions to improve our collaborations. I also often attend events and participate in panels or share our vision through key note speeches. I often travel to the countries where our local offices are based to coordinate political, financial and operational issues. I also visit public officers, human rights activists, managers of companies and officials of international organisations to develop partnerships, share our opinion on political issues and look for funding. 

 

  1. Could you tell us a little bit about your professional journey to date?

I studied business administration in the 1990s. During my study, I got interested in the new agenda of sustainable development that was formulated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This agenda included an important role for the private sector to contribute to solving environmental and social issues in society. In 1994 I organised a study tour with some fellow students to Costa Rica. We conducted field research for companies, the Dutch government and Dutch research institutes on sustainable development issues and managed to get the trip of four weeks financed.

 

After this trip I set up a consultancy firm with another student and friend and we worked for 2 years on market studies and business plan development for a number of clients. This allowed us to travel a couple of times to Costa Rica. When I graduated I moved to Costa Rica and work for 8 years on a part-time assignment as a business consultant on corporate social responsibilities and part-time as an advisor on private sector and sustainable development for the Dutch Embassy for Central America.

 

In 2004 I moved back to the Netherlands and worked five years as a senior program manager on sustainable commodities (coffee, soy, horticulture, oil seeds) and consumer behaviour in Asia, Africa and Asia. In 2009 I established my own social enterprise the BoP Innovation Center. Our aim was to develop together with the private sector new business model for extreme poor people, the so-called Base of the Pyramid. Together with multinational enterprises such as Unilever, DSM and Philips we developed new products and services to improve food security, the access to renewable energy and health. In 2015 I handed over the management and assumed the responsibility as Director for Hivos Latin America and the Caribbean.   


 
4.  Which cause are you most passionate about and why?

 

Enabling people to develop their dreams and improve their well-being. I think every individual has the capacity to dream and reach their ambition. Some people life under better conditions than others, so it is great to help less privileged to improve their living conditions, so they can explore their own potential and further develop themselves.   

 

  1. When did you discover you were a lesbian? How was your experience when you came out of the closet?

When I was a teenager. This was in the 80s in The Netherlands, the period of the second feminist movement. My mother would take me to so-called “women cafes and discos” and there I met all kind of women, among other lesbians. At a certain moment I met one woman with whom I fell in love. We had a love relationship for almost 5 years.  

 

 

 

  1. How would you describe yourself?

I am an analytical entrepreneur, a social innovator, very positive, an initiator but not a finisher. In my private relations I am very faithful, full of passion, I like to spend time with my family and friends, but also love to be in my private space enjoying nature and music. I want to contribute to changes in society but am also realistic that the challenges are big and that I should be happy contributing with a small drop, as all drops help to stop the fire. 

 

  1. What do you like to do in your free time?

 

I love to be in nature, listen to music, spend time with my two kids and partner. But I also love to spend time with friends, prepare and eat delicious food, have passionate discussions about all kind of societal issues, and to dance to Latin American music.  

 

  1. You have been living in Costa Rica for many years. What life event brought you there?

I have now lived for 11 years in total in Costa Rica, with an interruption of 10 years in which we lived in the Netherlands. Together with some students of my university we organized a study tour on sustainable development to Costa Rica in 1994. For four weeks we worked on a couple of assignments for which we had received money that made it possible to travel, and during each weekend we visited one part of the country. During that visit I fell in love with the country and its people. 
 


9. You are married to a woman and have two children, in a country where same-sex marriage has not yet been legalized. What has your personal experience been, and what obstacles have you faced as a lesbian woman in Costa Rica?

 

In Costa Rica, people are not very open about their sexual orientation. Nevertheless, people respect our relationship and act in a normal way. As long as you don’t express your sexual preference too obviously people will treat you in a ‘normal’ way. However, we don’t have the right to get married in Costa Rica, and our foreign marriage is not recognized by local law. This implies that our children and I cannot get a local residence visa based on our family relationship. I can neither safeguard the pension of my partner. In the past it would not be possible to visit your partner in the hospital, but I think that changed recently. And my partner is not able to get the adoption of the children being recognized in the country. 
 
10. As a lesbian woman, how did you go about becoming a mother? What possibilities and resources were available for you to embrace motherhood?


We have chosen to get pregnant by a known donor. The medical arrangements to make this happen were taken care of in the Netherlands, where we benefited from health insurance coverage and medical aid support. 


 
11. How was your decision received by your friends and relatives?

In a very positive way. 

 

  1. This year significant developments have taken place in Latin America regarding same-sex marriages and LGBT rights, following the Inter-American Court’s Advisory Opinion which declared same-sex marriages a fundamental right as guaranteed by the American Convention of Human Rights.  What are your hopes about the future of same-sex marriages and LGBT rights in general in Latin America?

My hope is that same sex marriages and all differences in regulation between sexual minorities and heterosexuals will be removed, so we all have the opportunity to benefit from the same rights. It is awkward that we are treated in a different way just for the choice we make with whom we want to have a sexual relation and share our private life. This choice doesn’t affect other people at all, and for this reason it is really weird and worrisome that parts of the hetero sexual population as well as religious people defend this discrimination.

 

I hope that the change we will experience will not only happen at an institutional and regulatory level but also at a more personal level and that people in Latin America will become more open minded on the beauty of living in harmony with different cultures, gender, sexual oriented groups, and that a more inclusive society reduces violence, aggression, frustration and other negative feelings that prevent us from being happy, and creating a prosperous society. 

 

 


 
13. Based on both your professional expertise and personal experience from living in the region, what is the greatest challenge women face in Latin America?

 

Violence and discrimination. 
 


14. What are your hopes for the ELLA International Lesbian Conference that will take place in San José next year?

 

Joy, inspiration, new contacts, new vibes within the local lesbian movements to innovate the way they try to promote change, access to resources (knowledge, contacts, funding) for the local lesbian community to continue working on creating better conditions for their constituency. 



15. What advice would you like to give to lesbian women who are afraid of coming out?

 

Be sure you are not the only one in that situation, look for women like you so you don’t feel alone, you can feel inspired and you can learn from them how to further develop yourself and be happy as a lesbian.  

 

 

  1. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years as a mother, partner, working professional, and as a woman?

 

After both my parents passed away, I became aware that planning so much ahead in life doesn’t make sense and would often create stress and discomfort for me. For this reason, I tend to plan my personal dreams and ambitions for not more than one year ahead. I try to check with myself what is important for me to feel happy, which are my personal dreams, and try to define targets I would like to reach at the end of the year. I make an effort to reach them, but I don’t feel frustrated if I don’t reach them all.

 

At this stage of my life, what is important for me is to find the right balance between my private life in which I want to provide a loving and stimulating environment for my partner, children, family and friends, and my professional life in which I want to share my experiences with my colleagues, develop strategies together with them to increase impact, and to explore new business models both for the organisation I work in as well as the organisations I work together with.

 

At a very private level, I really enjoy feeling grounded and more reflective. I feel happy with myself and enjoy the things that go well and explore the things that feel uncomfortable to see how I can do them in a different way.  

 

 

  1. You lived for many years in Costa Rica, do you plan to stay there for good or do you consider returning to the Netherlands in the near future? And if yes, why?

 

I love living in Costa Rica and the Netherlands. Both countries have so many beautiful things to offer. I will live in the country that fits best to my own needs and the once of my family. If this brings me to another country, I am also open for that. If I can do it from Costa Rica, that is also great.  

 

  1. How do you feel as a Dutch lady living in Costa Rica? What do you like and what do you dislike about it?

 

Costa Rica is a great place to be. Quality of life is really good, and the culture and way people interact with each other is really nice. We as North European people can learn a lot from their warm way of interacting, care for their family and co-citizens, flexibility to respond to unexpected situations in life. But when you live abroad there are always things you miss from your own country, people and culture. I miss the four seasons sometimes. To see the colors of the trees change and to feel the cold wind on your face. The surprise of snow and the explosion of new life in springtime. The long and in-depth conversations with my dearest friends. And I would love for Costaricans to be sometimes a bit more straightforward in their feelings and opinions, as it helps to find solutions for challenges together. I also would like to see that LGBTI rights will be respected and that we will enjoy the same rights as others in society. 

 

  1. Please tell us about a personal event which particularly marked you in your life.

 

The death of my parents as it made me aware that life is short and can stop all of a sudden. You really should live each day as if it is the last one. 

 

  1. What are your dreams? If you could choose – what would you like to happen in your life?

 

I hope my children stay healthy and develop themselves as happy, independent and inspirational adults. I hope I will be able to share my life with my partner for many more years. And I hope that the current trend of discrimination, greed and short-term thinking changes, and that there are every time more young, inspirational leaders in the public, private and social sector whom will contribute to creating a more inclusive and environmental friendly world, so my children and my children’s children are able to enjoy peace, nature and health in the same way as I was able to enjoy it up to now in my life.