A rainbow wave is happening in the United States, as more LGBTQ candidates are running for office than ever before. The wave is not restricted to the US, as around the world, LGBTQ candidates are running in large numbers and winning. This blog highlights of one such newly-elected official in Peru: Manuel Siccha. Manuel is a former trainee from our School “EMPODERA” that was organized with the help of our partners PROMSEX in Peru, back in 2017.
He is the first member of Lima’s Metropolitan Council, a body which governs the Lima Province of Peru, which has just under nine million people within its boundaries and is one of the largest cities in the Americas. He describes himself as a “young politician, lawyer, feminist, and sexual dissident.”
Prior to these elections, Siccha had a career in the feminist, youth, and LGBTQ movements in Peru, specifically aiming to improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS, trans women, and sex workers. He has an extensive background and list of qualifications: he attended and received a scholarship for the EMPODERA Political training School for LGBTI leaders, Schools of Political Leaders 2018 of the Escuela Superior Electoral y de Gobernabilidad, and School of Government of the OAS in Open Government. He has a Diploma in Municipal Management by the National School of Government Studies, has studied Public Policies on Gender, and has a Diploma in Sexual Diversity and Human Rights by CLACSO and the Argentina LGBT Federation. Siccha served on the District Youth Council, is the Executive Director at Empoderadxs, was a member of the Board of Amnesty International Peru, and was a member of several youth empowerment organizations in Peru.¹
Siccha’s win is part of a broader win for the Popular Action Party, which swept the municipal election, winning 21 seats and becoming the clear majority in the council. He joins a small group of openly LGBTQ elected officials in Peru, including Carlos Bruce, member of congress and minister in President Kuczynski’s cabinet, Alberto de Belaunde, member of congress, and Luisa Revilla, member of the city council of Trujillo and the first transgender elected official in the country. Siccha is in good company, as these elected officials have helped Peru make gains in the area of LGBTQ equality.
Siccha thus is thrust into a crucial period: Peru is currently on the eve of legalizing same-sex marriage, continuing recent strides in LGBTQ equality. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was criminalized in 2017 following President Kuczynski signing a decree adding them to the country’s anti-discrimination laws. In 2016, transgender folks were allowed to change their legal gender without surgery for the first time. LGBTQ folks can serve openly in the Peruvian military and there is an equal age of consent for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in 2018 that its member countries should extend recognition of marriage to same-sex couples. Carlos Bruce affirmed that same-sex marriage was coming to Peru within two years as a result of the ruling.
The progress already made and the strides to come are made by and protected by LGBTQ activists and elected officials. Peru needs more officials like Siccha as he will be a voice not only for his constituents, but for the LGBTQ community. Siccha stated in an interview with a Peruvian news website that he wants to be a fresh face for public administration in Lima, resulting not only from his sexual orientation but from his ideas and desires to help his city. He was hand-picked by Jorge Munoz, the newly elected mayor of Lima, to become a councilor for the district. Despite his young age, he already has several years of volunteering and community work under his belt.
Siccha’s election attracted negative attention from right-wing news sources as well, indicating that he is right where he needs to be. In order for the LGBTQ community to win against the bigotry that seeks to harm us, we need to have people on the front lines like Manuel. Supporting individuals like Siccha is our mission at Victory Institute. We’ve done work in Peru, as we’ve worked with Peru-based organization PROMSEX to host regional conferences, implement trainings, and hold Vote for Equality campaigns. We’re excited for Siccha and hope to see more LGBTQ candidates winning elections in Peru in the future.
¹Source material of this paragraph is an email directly sent to the author of this blog by Siccha himself.