With fireworks, music and dancing ‘nuns’, on Friday 25 September Montevideo was host to the March for Diversity, Uruguay’s equivalent of Gay Pride.
Part of a year long-programme of activities organized by the Uruguayan Government called Actúa Montevideo: Más igualdad, más diversidad (Act Montevideo: more equality, more diversity), it took place in September, a month that this small but open-minded country has dedicated to sexual diversity for the second year running.
Respect for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights has come more into the public domain recently. Uruguay is unusual among neighbours in its liberal attitude towards homosexuality, exemplified by the introduction of a law at the beginning of September permitting adoption by homosexual couples – unprecedented in Latin America. The Catholic Church and opposition parties spoke out against this law as being contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but its proponents insisted that it makes adoption processes safer, which helps avoid child trafficking.
Uruguay’s parliament has also approved gay marriage and name and sex changes from the age of 12. In a speech at the opening ceremony for the Month of Diversity, a Government representative said that he was proud to say that Uruguay was the Latin capital of respect and tolerance.
‘I’ve been coming on the march for the past five years, although I’m not gay. I come because I’m against all kinds of discrimination and this is another struggle for everyone’
However, despite the liberal stance of the Uruguayan authorities, the organizers of the march, Ovejas Negras (Black Sheep) and FUDIS (Uruguayan Federation of Sexual Diversity) stated that Uruguayan society faces ‘the need to transcend the limits of its indifference, its shame or aggressiveness, in order to recognize that discrimination for reasons of sexual identity or gender identification has no justification in a democratic society.’
The march itself took place in a festive atmosphere with around 10,000 party-goers helping to celebrate the recent progresses made in the defence of gay rights and to make sure that they will not go unnoticed in the future.
The mayor of Montevideo, Ricardo Ehrlich, who led the celebration along with other civil servants, stated on local television that ‘getting to know each other is what chases fear away’ and stressed the importance of this when it comes to building cities.
Meanwhile his city, or at least part of it, became a kind of outdoor night club when the music started in the Plaza Independencia at seven in the evening. One of the carnaval floats served as a mobile sound system and belted out such global classics as ‘I Will Survive’, ‘It’s Raining Men’ and ‘YMCA’, as well as some more local gay disco standards, although the most authentic Uruguayan touch was added by a group playing candombe drums.
With the slogans ‘In every kiss, a revolution’, and ‘Not one vote for homophobia’, the message was clear, and seemed to reach a receptive public. As one participant said: ‘I’ve been coming on the march for the past five years, although I’m not gay. I come because I’m against all kinds of discrimination and this is another struggle for everyone.’