Last June 30th, Dominican congressman Jose Horacio Rodriguez raised the voice of alarm informing of very dangerous and discriminatory changes made in the Penal Code by the chamber of deputies of the Dominican Republic. Up to that day, the Congress had been revising the penal code in order to make a more “updated version” of it. Within these changes, sexual orientation and gender identity were excluded as reasons for discrimination and a new paragraph has been added, which states: “There will not be discrimination when the service provider or the contractor bases their refusal on the objection to their religious conscience, ethics, morals or institutional requirements”, putting the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalized groups in an even more vulnerable situation than ever before. Queer people in the DR are already losing their jobs, struggling to rent apartments along with their partners and facing other issues because of discrimination and this new penal code only legitimizes the hate and LGBTphobia they have to face on a daily basis.
Feminist groups and allies have had a long fight to include the decriminalization of abortion in three specific and urgent situations: when pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse or incest, when the mother’s life or pregnant person is at risk or when the life of the fetus is nonviable outside the uterus because of malformations or congenital conditions and the Congress rectified penalties against abortion in every circumstance. This leaves girls, women, nonbinary and transgender men unprotected and vulnerable as the system fails at providing the protection they’re supposed to receive.
Sexual orientation and gender identity were also excluded as aggravating factors in homicide, torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment (articles 97, 119 and 120 respectively), giving an open pass for conversion therapies to be practiced freely in the country. Hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ people are not typified as such in the DR and it is not a secret that attacks and murders against the community are a lot more sadistic and violent in the way they are perpetrated, therefore when the law does not recognize that, the sensation of unsafety and uncertainty increases exponentially. The trans community is the most affected by all this. Since 2006, 48 trans people have been murdered and only 5 cases were resolved (Human Rights Observatory for Trans People in the Dominican Republic), in many of those cases signs of excessive violence and torture were found. It is already hard for the community to have access to law and justice mechanisms, and this exclusion makes it even worse.
"The Dominican LGBTQIA+ community soon spread the voice and started organizing. This colorful, beautiful army closed ranks and prepared for battle, the fight for their rights. It all began humbly, with a small group protesting in front of the Congress building in Santo Domingo, but soon after, the following days a lot more people joined. Testimonies, poems and experiences were shared and continue to be shared in the Open Mic activity every day, Monday to Friday, starting at 6:00 PM. Psychologists and therapists Alejandro Kepp and Belkis Batista have led a conversation about self-care for the activists and protestors, LGBTQIA+ religious group “Comunidad de Servidores de Dios” (Community of God’s Servants) led a talk about connecting with our spiritual and religious side. Artists and local Drag Queens Mahoney, Chica Permiso and Féenyks Kat'Rouge have shown their support and talents to the cause as the drag community keeps fighting and healing together as a whole. A demonstration was performed with many of the volunteers lying on the floor representing the deaths that hate and discrimination cause to the community, it was called the “perfomuerte” (an abreviation for death+performance) and it can be seen in the RD es de Todes’s Instagram profile (@rdesdetodes), also voguing lessons and presentations thru ballroom community-building project Draguéalo (drag-it-up dominicanized) that creates celebratory spaces of empowerment and self-expression for the community."
On Sunday the 11 the LGBTQIA+ community were summoned by the “RD es de todes” movement to the “Marsha Queer” (Queer March), a demonstration named after the iconic activist and eternal queen Marsha P. Johnson. People gathered in the center of the city, with drag artist Rya Aton leading the march blowing flames into the air, and marched to the congress building chanting and yelling their slogans, one of them being FURIA PÁJARA, (Queer Fury), and “Sin Los LGBT, no hay Codigo Penal” (Without the LGBTs, there’s no Penal Code). Dominican artist Yeifri Ramirez marched with one of his drag characters La Salonera (the hairdresser) as a way to bring the Dominicanness to the march. A document which contains the movement’s claims to President Luis Abinader was handed out to the people there. On behalf of the community, it requests to reincorporate the sections about discrimination that were excluded from the penal code and to decriminalize abortion in the three exceptions mentioned above, all of this exercising his political leadership to fulfil the promises he made to the community during his campaign.
The march concluded with testimonies, artistic performances and not even the rain could stop the joyous gathering. Anlly Rodriguez, the first dominican trans woman to hold a political position, gave a heartfelt speech about LBTGIQ+ people not being second class citizens, activist and writer Paola Then called the “maricones'' (a slur reappropriated by the community) to action, Joshua Guzman talked about the struggles that the trans community faces daily, trans activist Nairobi Castillo led the minute of silence in remembrance of the ones already gone, Carlos De Leon educated about the penal code and the problematic changes made to it, among other participants. The highlight of the day was the performance of Tokischa, a popular dominican trapper who has shown her support as an ally to the community. That was a great day for the LGBTIQ+ people to come together as one to claim their rights. and they will continue doing so as long as it is necessary.
As days progressed, a group of representatives from the RD es de Todes movement conformed by Dominique Rincon, Maria Battle, Anlly Rodriguez and Juanjo Cid held meetings with the president of the Senate Eduardo Estrella and another one with the Senate’s special commission of justice in charge of revising the penal code sent from the chamber of deputies. They explained what the movement is about and the reason why those changes contradict the country’s Constitution. The president expressed his support and said he is against all forms of discrimination and a special request was made by the movement to be part of the team of advisors who will support the Senate’s commission of justice on that matter.The commission said they will take the request into consideration.
More about the movement
RDesdeTodes (@rdesdetodes) is a queer collective that arises as a result of this decision of the chamber of deputies, which is composed of a team of experienced LGBTQIA Dominicanxs activists, including lawyers, artists, organizers, educators, health specialists and communicators which have worked for many years within respective LGBTQIA and women’s rights organizations, and joined forces individually for this current cause.
About the authors
Written by Jose Rodriguez (@r2jose), organizational psychologist, educator, freelance writer and Human Rights activist, part of the editorial team of Wilferland (@wilferland), a dominican LGBTIQ+ entertainment and educational digital community.
Photography by Carlos Rodriguez (@carlosrodriguez.do), longtime Advocate contributor, Dominican visual artist and activist, co-founder of IURA Dominican LGBTQIA education organization (@iura.do), and founder of Draguealo, ballroom community organization in Dominican Republic. (@draguealo)