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Gay Bolivia

By Ricardo Segreda

Bolivia, being the poorest nation in South America, is also one of the least flexible and tolerant in matters relating to gender and sexuality. La Paz offers a handful of clandestinely operated gay bars, but travelers go at their own risk, since being identified as a "marica" (a derogatory term) can result in harassment, violence, or even death. Furthermore, the low-paid police are generally indifferent, or even hostile, to the well-being of gay, lesbian, and transgendered citizens. Most gay Bolivians remain in "the closet," or even convince themselves that they are straight while leading a double life. Consequently, this has led to a higher-than-average instance of AIDS in Bolivia, except, paradoxically, among prostitutes, who are required to be tested for HIV every three months.

Despite this, over the last twenty years, factors ranging from the spread of AIDS (which has forced the country to at least broach the subject of homosexuality) to the Internet have resulted in a small but growing movement for gay civil liberties. 1994 saw the first gay pride event ever in the country, and the following year gave rise to MGLP, a gay rights group, and then later, Mujeres Creando, for lesbians, but their impact in changing Bolivia's laws and attitudes has been minimal. Indeed, despite the election of Socialist Evo Morales, and his commitment to acknowledge sexual minorities in civil rights law, gay marriage was specifically outlawed in the country's new constitution.

As recently as 2007, a float in an event entitled Respect for Sexual Diversity was hit by dynamite. In the midst of these challenges, gay and lesbian activists continue to lobby for greater visibility, and an association of politically active drag performers known as the Galan Family has garnered international recognition for its efforts. For the traveler wanting to network with the gay community in Bolivia, you can contact MGLP, which does not have an e-mail or website, but does offer a mailing address, Casilla Postal 10471, La Paz, Bolivia, and a phone number, 591.222.621019. There is also a website for Bolivia's lesbian community,

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Bolivia: Bolivian Dress, Tarata, Cliza, Arani, Punata and surrounds, Lodging in Bolivia, Women Travelers in Bolivia, Responsible Tourism in Bolivia, Finding Maps in Bolivia, Photography in Bolivia, Learning Spanish in Bolivia, Music in Bolivia and When to go.

18 Nov 2008

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