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María Inés López

María Inés López

access_timeJuly 21, 2013 10:51 am

"It is unacceptable that we continue to tolerate discrimination as if we were not talking about our fellow citizens, our neighbors, our family, our people"

In order for all persons, without any distinction, to enjoy the same rights, the prominent lawyer María Inés López took her first steps in the field of Human Rights. Since 2002 she has organized and participated in meetings, seminars and meetings with various LGBT groups.

When did you start working on projects on human rights? What were the reasons you were interested with these personal and professional projects?

My first steps in the field of Human Rights took place with my aunt Carolina López Armoa, activist for women's rights for decades. She taught me the rudiments of human rights, especially the rights of women and rural populations or affected by poverty. I remember having accompanied her to meetings, conferences, marches. Having read with her reports from the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission of Women and others. So, as far as I am able, I got involved at different levels in organizations working for the "very human rights."

In the field of human rights, you are known and recognized as a faithful defender of LGBT rights in Paraguay. What motivated you to get involved in this issue?

As mentioned before, for me it was natural that ALL people, without distinction, accessed the same rights. However, when I started working in health projects and then more specifically intended for those affected by the HIV population, I internalized better the situation of LGBT people in Paraguay and other countries. When I was working already for UNAIDS in Paraguay, I remember that since 2002 I organized and participated in meetings and seminars with various LGBT groups. Awareness was higher and of course, a continuing learning began and is secured by every experience, especially with the knowledge that LGBT people and groups share, both, at home and in the region.

In regards to the law of HIV in our country, what do you think are the legal advances for the protection of people living with HIV and their families?

Each of the titles of this law is a significant advance in terms of regulations for the protection of people affected and infected by HIV. It begins by recognizing everyday discrimination against people on the fact that their HIV status is real or pressumed, and from there sets standards and provides legal tools to forewarn basic human rights, and to some extent repair situations of injustice. The criminalization of discriminatory attitudes and actions give an important singularity, and become the only shield against attacks suffered by people living with HIV, but - very important - also the people who others assume, believe or perceive that live with HIV and those who are discriminated by it.
This law is very unique, it deserves to be one subject of study in classrooms of law schools . The first achievement was that for processing collaborated on a long process of those affected organizations, national institutions and international organizations of reference, and other organizations. I stress however that the project suffered several changes during the study process by both houses, and that added to the progress and knowledge gained to date, make these amendments included in the agenda of many organizations.

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"It is unacceptable that we continue to tolerate discrimination as if we were not talking about our fellow citizens, our neighbors, our family, our people"

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From your perspective and your own experience, how do you see the state of the HIV epidemic in our country? Are there traces of significant progress in terms of health?

There are several significant advances in the response to the epidemic, and be proud that they have all the players who have had intervention in construction over the past eight years. The amount of funding that was available locally was considerably expanded, and from there expanded - not necessarily in proportion - the prioritized population access to counseling and voluntary testing, condoms, basic information, training, etc.
Now, were all those measures effective, efficient, adequate? Can we breathe easy and keep a sort of cruising speed? No. Absolutely not. While I recognize and appreciate as a citizen the disparate efforts of the government and other organizations, I can not be satisfied with the current state of affairs. Because it's not enough. Because we can do more . Because we need to do more.
I do not mean an itch for perfection and high standards, but because there are basic questions that remain to be resolved. A main and common to many health issues and poverty has to do with the infrastructure of the health system, and the diffusion of knowledge among its members. While this infrastructure is not substantially improved, all efforts made could fall at any moment and hard to trace. Another issue has to do with the extent of the progress in the response, from the capital and six selected regions throughout the country, with special emphasis on the rural area, barely accessed by most health programs.

What do you consider to be the major legal challenges that exist with regards to equal rights in our country?

Within this context and thinking particularly - but not exclusively - in the LGBT population, the challenge is to achieve a law to prevent, suppress and set the form of redress for violations of human rights arising from discrimination. This challenge is not only in my opinion pertinent to the LGBT organizations, but of all the people and institutions that claim to be propelling Human Rights. It is a challenge that all citizens launch especially to the National Congress and naturally, the Executive Branch has to enact the law.
The legal challenge is wider, it has to do with achieving policy coherence, and bringing down to earth all the legal system for the effective exercise of rights by each person. It is unacceptable that we delay access to poorer health because there are loopholes, or refusing a job to transvestites because there are no effective mechanisms for the protection of their right to work , or continue to build large buildings, streets and sidewalks that do not consider the minimum requirements established in old ordinances to facilitate the movement of people with physical disabilities. It is simply unacceptable that we continue to tolerate it as if we were not talking about our fellow citizens, our neighbors, our family, our people.