Colombia Pride Month: Civil society defending LGBTQIA+ rights

Since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Colombia, the country has been at the forefront of the LGBTQIA+ movement in Latin America. It is the work of Colombian civil society that has made the rights achievements possible.

Manuel Velandia is a human rights defender who changed the history of the LGBTQIA+ movement in Colombia. The self-described "queer" activist led the first Pride march in the Andean country, and the third in Latin America, in a journey with 30 people to raise awareness of the issues and promote the rights of the community.

Even though a year earlier (1981) homosexuality had been decriminalised in Colombia, this historic day set a precedent. From that moment onwards the country was at the forefront of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement.

Since 1991, the right to equality, the constitutional principle of pluralism and the right to free development of personality have been established in the constitution. Between 2007 and 2008, the marital union between homosexual people was approved. In 2015, trans people over 18 years old were guaranteed the right to change their legal gender on all identification documents. The following year, in 2016, same-sex marriage was legalised.

During the same year, the historic Colombian peace agreement that ended more than five decades of conflict included LGBTIQ+ people in the process and implementation for the first time in the world. The Gender Subcommittee, which included an LGBTQIA+ representative, and the negotiating parties recognised that LGBTQIA+ people were disproportionately affected by the conflict.


Despite major advances in rights, violence continues for almost 501,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Colombia. Colombia Diversa's report Nothing to Celebrate states that in 2020 the country recorded the highest number of murders of LGBTQIA+ people in a five-year period: more than 700 were killed or threatened.

Faced with this reality, "LGBTQIA+ people, especially those who lead social processes and defenders of human rights, continue to report crimes and violence due to prejudice because of sexual orientation or gender," explains the general director of Ilex Acción Jurídica, Dayana Blanco.

Ilex Acción Jurídica is a social organisation supported by the Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF) that investigates the availability of data on the situation of Afro social leadership in Colombia, including the risks and threats faced by Afro LGBTQIA+ social leaders.

Social organisations are making a great effort to document the security situation of Colombian social leaders, but Blanco says that "this process must continue to be strengthened in order to fully understand the data on their sexual orientation".


The NHRF joins Pride Month to highlight those standing on the frontline of the battles to guarantee the defence of human rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is precisely the work of civil society that has made the achievements possible and as an international organisation we have a duty to support it.