Larissa Arroyo – Advocate for Human and LBGTI Rights in Costa Rica
Larissa is a lawyer and master in human rights. She is president and legal advisor of the association ACCEDER, Strategic Action for human rights. She also works as an interim professor at the University of Costa Rica and is a legal advisor for the organization Front for Equal Rights (Frente por los Derechos Igualitarios). She participates in numerous local and international litigations as a litigant and adviser.
Kristin Hansen, ELLA CEO&Founder, interviewed her:
Please tell us a little bit about you, where are you from , where do you live, what do you do?
My name is Larissa Arroyo Navarrete. I am an activist for Human Rights, bisexual and feminist. I was born in Costa Rica and although I lived some years in Mexico and France, my life, my career and most of the people I love are in my country of origin. I am a lawyer specialized in human rights, gender and diversity.
I have a degree from the Faculty of Law of the University of Costa Rica, two post-graduate Diplomas from the Center for Human Rights of the Faculty of Law of the University of Chile: “Human Rights and Women: Central America” and “Human Rights and Women : Legal Strategies for Advocacy “, a Master’s Degree in Human Rights from the State University of Costa Rica, and I am a graduate of the Master’s Degree in Constitutional Justice from the University of Costa Rica.
I work as director of the ACCEDER Citizen Association and also a legal adviser to the FDI, Frente para los Derechos Igualitarios, a Costa Rican collective focused on actions for effective access to the rights of the LBGTI population in Costa Rica. Additionally, I am an expert consultant in human rights, gender and diversity, teacher in masters and human rights graduates and author of academic and opinion articles as well as the blog “La Letra Justa” in the newspaper La República that deals with issues of discrimination, violence and Human Rights.
Please tell us more about Costa Rica’s history and about the current situation for LGBTIQ within the country.
Costa Rica is a country that likes to project itself internationally as respectful of Human Rights but currently does not allow equal marriage, does not have data on hate crimes because they are not classified as crimes and generally does not provide care to LBGTI people and less to lesbian and bisexual women. The initiatives to protect us find many barriers based on religious beliefs. This year the Inter-American Court of Human Rights told him with an advisory opinion that he had to provide the same legal status to all the people but the Costa Rican state did not want to implement it.
Please tell us more about the association ACCEDER, what you do and what are the current projects.
ACCEDER is a Costa Rican organization dedicated to promoting strategic actions for Human Rights as political and legal advocacy, national litigation and before the Inter-American Human Rights System as well as the Universal Human Rights System, capacity building and knowledge of rights, research and Strengthening of the political leadership of women for the advancement of human rights in Costa Rica.
|We are currently working on the advisory opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as it is the tool with the highest legal status that for the first time recognizes us at a conventional level rights for LBGTI persons. We have also been developing together with other organizations and activists an agenda of rights and needs of lesbian, bisexual and non-heterosexual women as we dilute ourselves in the great bag of LBGTI. Everything we do is based on the particular need to eradicate discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation and therefore we focus on women and people LBGTI|
As you know we are planning an ELLA event in Costa Rica in 2019, what would be your hopes for this event?
My hope is that it is a massive event in Costa Rica, which will be positioned in the media as a unique event, not only because of the connotation of sexual diversities, but above all because we are lesbian and bisexual women, the most invisible ones, particularly in relation to to our needs but also with regard to the place we occupy in the world, especially the public.
When did you find out that you like women and how was your coming out?
I always say that I never had to leave the closet. I never had to open a door because one day a window appeared and I simply continued with my life, I no longer liked only men but I was also attracted to women. My story of how I discovered that I was bisexual was very different from the stories I’ve heard. I was never in the closet because I had never been attracted to a woman until around my 30s for the first time I was attracted to one.
By that time I was an activist so it seemed to me that the most natural thing was to be as public as with my male partners. My mother distanced herself from me for a month and then told me she loved me and that was it. She accepted the two female partners I had as she had always done with the past ones. I would like all lesbian and bisexual women to have a beautiful story in which they are accepted and loved by their close ones and family.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am a feminist and activist so there is not a day and time of the week where I am planning not actions to claim the human rights of women and LBGTI people. This is not a good practice. It is necessary to self-care. Because of this, I try to make time to travel and to do activities that I like very much like watching horror movies, making brunches and dinners with my friends, writing an article, among other things but the things I enjoy the most is the pleasure to do nothing in the company of my dog Jarbito. The art of doing nothing is undoubtedly something that activists have a hard time practicing but that is necessary to survive.
Tell us about an event that marked you a lot.
Two years ago I became an aunt. It was a wonderful and painful experience at the same time. I discovered more closely that motherhood is not what one is told, that there is a lot of violence against women before, during and after childbirth, that we feel vulnerable and unprotected, because although I was not the one who had to experience it in my own flesh, feeling that the life of my sister and my nephews was in my hands because they were in a vulnerable condition marked me a lot.