Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Dominican Republic have long faced discrimination and violence in their communities. But in recent years they have begun to speak out, advocate for their rights, and build a movement calling for change in Dominican society so that they can live as equal citizens whose rights are respected.
One AJWS grantee that has taken the lead in this initiative is Red de Voluntarios de Amigos Siempre Amigos (REVASA). REVASA was founded in 2005 and through training, networking and collective projects, the organization helps local LGBT activists develop the leadership skills needed to forge a powerful movement for social change in their country.
Training the next generation of activists
To empower future LGBT activists, REVASA employs a grassroots model, training volunteers to become leaders who then go out into their own communities and organize. In the past five years, REVASA has trained more than 180 volunteers on key topics ranging from increasing the political and civil participation of LGBT people to preventing HIV. These activists have gone on to contribute to REVASA’s human rights campaigns and community education efforts. They have organized high-profile human rights forums, such as the International LGBT Film Festival in the Dominican Republic. Activists also document and track human rights violations against LGBT people, while advocating for legal reforms so that the country’s laws will prohibit and prevent abuse and discrimination. In addition to training volunteer leaders to become activists, REVASA also offers in-depth workshops to health care providers and policy makers, helping them better understand and respond to the needs of LGBT people.
Bringing about change, one law at a time
Although the LGBT community in the Dominican Republic continues to face serious challenges, LGBT rights groups like REVASA are pushing Dominican society toward change. Because of their collective advocacy efforts, the Dominican Constitution was revised in 2010 to include language that prohibits discrimination based on “human condition.” REVASA is currently advocating for additional changes that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It is also pushing for a set of public policies or laws that reinforce the Constitution’s statement and implement it on the ground in communities.