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Colombian Transsexual Challenges Military Requirement
Juan David Laverde Palma

BOGOTA — When 31-year-old Grace Kely sic, a transsexual living in Bogotá, applied to become a nurse with the city government last year, the hiring process ground to a sudden halt. It happened when the municipal department she hoped to work for told her they couldn’t hire her without a certificate showing she had completed her military service.

Kely appealed what she called an “absurd” requirement — at least for transsexuals — arguing the mandatory service violated her right to work and live without discrimination. A judge disagreed, and the case is being reviewed by Colombia's Constitutional Court.

The fact is that the certificate is a requirement, and there is no legal exemption so far for transsexuals. Several gay rights organizations have backed Kely's case, sending the Constitutional Court documents and written arguments about why an exemption is necessary.

Activists are arguing, for example, that transsexuals would very likely face discrimination in the army, for starters during the naked inspection to which new recruits are subjected.

Kely is also receiving support from the ombudsman's office and the Bogotá municipal government, run by the progressive Mayor Gustavo Petro. The municipality has sent the court documents to show that while almost all gays have faced discrimination, transsexuals have faced the highest number of cases. Kely describes her battle as “collective” in the hope that a ruling will protect others in the future.


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