In Venezuela, a soldier can be sent to prison for being gay. The courts could change that.


On an early morning in 2013, a soldier alerted a supervisor that a comrade had left his post. He had seen him getting into a red car with a man “who looked gay,” prosecutors said in court documents. A sergeant rushed to the car, ordered the soldier to return to his post and grabbed the other man’s ID card. Officials later collected forensic evidence from the scene and ordered the soldier to lower his pants, looking for proof that the two men had had sex. The soldier was convicted of abandonment of service and “sexual acts against nature.” He was sentenced to almost two years in prison and banned from the military for life. The prosecutor, who repeatedly quoted soldiers using derogatory words for gay men, deemed his actions “dishonorable,” “unseemly” and “unworthy” of the military. Nearly a decade after that arrest, and more than 10 years after the United States repealed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Venezuela continues to prohibit gay sexual activity between service members, punishable by one to three years in prison. The article in the military code of justice makes the socialist nation one of the last countries in Latin America to criminalize homosexuality. Now, for the first time, Venezuela’s highest court has announced it will weigh the constitutionality of the law. The decision of the Supreme Court of Justice comes five years after the advocacy group Egalitarian Venezuela filed a lawsuit asking it to repeal the provision. “It’s a fight for a social transformation,” said Giovanni Piermattei, the organization’s president, “that perhaps we will eliminate that stigma, the belief that we’re less male, less female or less courageous.”

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