According to Venezuela’s military code of justice, “unnatural acts” perpetrated between two consenting, same-sex adults are punished by three years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. This makes serving in the military and living life as an openly gay person an impossibility.
“It is worse to be gay than corrupt,” said a National Guard captain who declined to give reveal his identity.
In spite of petitions to parliament by human rights activists and recent policy reforms, homosexuality among service members remains a taboo punishable by military action.
"It is worse to be gay than corrupt."
Jose, a captain, deserted after years of pressure. Rafael, a lieutenant, was prosecuted and expelled.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) April 20, 2022
“There are members of the military that are corrupt, thieves, drug traffickers, under investigation who are punished and then carry on working as if nothing happened,” said the anonymous source. He added that the pressure he felt during his time of service was so severe that he literally lost his hair.
A former Army Lieutenant who was persecuted and dishonorably discharged for homosexuality spoke on the systemic issue. “First question they ask you in the entry interview is: what is your sexual orientation, homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual? If you don’t reply that you are heterosexual, you’re discarded. That’s the first filter,” he explained.
This is not the first time that Venezuela’s military was accused of intolerance or human rights violations. On multiple occasions in recent years, they have come under fire politically and socially for using inhumane practices while stifling anti-government protests. High command denies these claims.
Earlier this year, it was announced that by the country’s highest court that it would for the first time reconsider the constitutionality laws against homosexuality.
The Supreme Court Justice’s decision was made five years after a lawsuit was filed demanding that laws against homosexuality be repealed. The lawsuit was filed by Egalitarian Venezuela, an advocacy group focused on policy and social justice.
“It’s a fight for a social transformation,” said the organization’s president, Giovanni Piermattei. he continued, “Perhaps we will eliminate that stigma, the belief that we’re less male, less female or less courageous.”