UK fundraisers are helping to pay for a new LGBT community centre on the Paraguayan-Argentine border.
The LGBT activism group All Out is calling for people across the world to donate to the venture.
SOMOSGAY is a community organisation based in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, and provides support for young LGBT people and those living with HIV.
It wants to build the centre in Villetta, a small town huddled around a concrete plant on the Paraguay River. The area was chosen because of its remoteness and the fact that people in rural areas struggle to access the help and advice they need.
It’s perfectly legal to have gay sex in Paraguay but there are constitutional bans in place since 1992 against the recognition of same-sex couples and same-sex marriage.
In 2013, Presidential candidate Horacio Cartes said if his son were gay: “I would shoot myself in the testicles, because I do not agree,” He also likened support of same-sex marriage to believing in “the end of the world,” and called gay people monkeys.
Meanwhile, just three years ago, a survey undertaken by the Pew Research Centre found that 80% of Paraguayans were against the introduction of same-sex marriage into constitutional law.
Paraguay is currently the only country in Southern Latin America not to have anti-discrimination laws, leaving LGBT people vulnerable to discrimination in their daily lives.
SOMOSGAY and All Out say their service is vital because so many young people are being forced to leave their family homes because of the prejudice they face.
Early this year, candidate for next year’s Presidential elections Santiago Peña spoke out that he believed that same-sex marriage should be legalised in the country. However, he quickly came under fire from Senator Carlos Núñez who said “Equal marriage is immoral. You have to respect the family.”
More recent political developments have seen the country’s Minister of Education and Sciences implementing a ban on the distribution of materials that promote “non-traditional families”. The Minister has also banned the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, as well as sex education for LGBT young people.
All Out’s Executive Director, Matt Beard said: “Across Latin America, anti-LGBT movements are using the made-up concept of ‘gender ideology’ to justify their hateful attacks against thousands of people and families.
“The fact that governments, like in Paraguay, are buying into these lies, and using them to develop policy, shows that this damaging propaganda is working.”
He continued: “It shows how urgent it is for those of who believe in equality to speak up and take a firm stand against these dangerous bigots, in Paraguay and elsewhere.”
With Paraguay’s Presidential Elections due to take place next year, a new opportunity to amend current laws regarding LGBT equality has arisen. The eyes of LGBT Paraguayans will be on the candidates’ policies regarding equality and discrimination, with previous comments from Santiago Peña providing some hope for progress.