Equal rights for LGBTI people – Victoria Obando Valverde, Local Human Rights Tulip Winner 2019

As an activist, transwoman and former political prisoner in Nicaragua, everything has been twice as hard for Victoria Obando Valverde. She is discriminated against and receives death threats. But whatever life throws at her, she seems unstoppable. ‘We have the right to live. Without life, we have nothing,’ says Victoria.

Anyone who knows her says she has always been like this. A warrior. From a young age she learned to demand respect. She opposed the discrimination she faced for being a transgender girl. Later, she participated in movements defending equal rights for the LGBTI community.

LGBTI and human rights

In 2013 Victoria founded DEIGEORSEX (Movement for Gender Identity Rights and Sexual Orientation). Its first project was aimed at eradicating discrimination against Nicaragua’s LGBTI population. She also supported the National AIDS Commission CONISIDA. In 2015, Victoria joined the national LGBTI Round Table in Nicaragua, a platform bringing together organisations that defend sexual diversity rights. There she followed human rights training.

Arrested

In April 2018, Victoria joined the protests against Daniel Ortega’s government. When the students of UNAN-Managua decided to occupy their campus, Victoria joined them. Once there, she gained the respect of the others. Given her gift for leadership and experience as an activist, she quickly became the leader of the student protest movement (UNAN). Victoria actively participated in their marches. This led to her receiving many threats and offensive messages on social media.

On 29 August 2018, the national police accused her publicly of terrorism, homicide, arson, kidnapping and robbery. They arrested her and transferred her to a jail known as ‘La Modelo’, where she was placed with male prisoners, despite being a transsexual woman. From prison, she sent a letter to the outside world about torture and discrimination against transgender people. The letter went viral. Nine months and 10 days later she was released as part of an amnesty law. After her release, she continued  her protest.

The Human Rights Tulip Award

On 5 December 2019 Victoria received the Human Rights Tulip from Peter-Derrek Hof, the Dutch ambassador to five countries including Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The ceremony took place in Costa Rica’s capital San José. ‘I know that those who advocate for human rights often run a great personal risk.  I’m convinced that these very people have an incredible power to generate change and better the lives of other people. For Victoria, the risk and the price of her activism was jail, but she emerged more convinced than ever of her objective: to generate a change in Nicaragua, transforming it into a society where human rights and justice flourish. Victoria represents a message of peace, of hope, of unity for her country Nicaragua. Prison did not stop her. She went on with her battle in spite of the risks,’ said Peter Derrek Hof.

Victoria received her award wearing remarkable clothes: her blue prison uniform. As a mini protest on behalf of all the political prisoners who remain in jail. Victoria: ‘This award means so much, for us transwomen, and for the LGBTI community in general. It reflects recognition of that great effort, which isn’t always seen. It’s a struggle to build a country. They have to keep fighting, every day at every moment and wherever they are, we have to keep fighting. It’s like the painful process of a butterfly’s metamorphosis, she suffers, and it hurts her, but when she emerges from her cocoon, she flies.

Human Rights Tulip

Equal rights for LGBTI people

All over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people suffer discrimination, violence and exclusion. But everyone should be able and free to be themselves, no matter who they are and whom they love. The Netherlands is actively committed to decriminalising sexual orientation and gender identity, fighting discrimination and violence, and promoting social acceptance and equal rights all around the world. 

Human rights

Human rights are rights that apply worldwide, to all people, in all places, at all times. They protect the dignity of every human being. You have human rights because you are human,  regardless of your gender, ethnicity, religion or political opinion. The Netherlands strives to protect and promote human rights all over the world. This is a priority of the Dutch government’s foreign policy. The Netherlands employs a wide array of actions and initiatives geared towards strengthening human rights. To uphold your right to express your opinion. To live your life, if you're different. To adhere to your own religion. To go to school if you’re a girl. Human rights will thrive if we stand up for them, together with many other countries. By supporting local organisations. By not letting violations go unpunished. By incorporating human rights into trade treaties. By continuing to defend them.

Human Rights Tulip

The Dutch government supports human rights defenders and organisations. With the Human Rights Tulip, the Netherlands provides recognition and visibility for the winners and emphasises the legitimacy and importance of their work as human rights defenders. Each year, the Dutch government awards the Human Rights Tulip to a person or organisation that promotes human rights worldwide in innovative ways. The winner receives a bronze sculpture and €100,000. This money allows them to continue and expand their work. The prize money comes from the Human Rights Fund.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders are individuals or organisations that seek to protect human rights. Through their work they promote and defend globally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms by peaceful means. They are able to generate change and improve the lives of many, but they often have to contend with serious threats and violence. The Netherlands supports human rights defenders so they can continue their invaluable work effectively and safely. Their voices and their stories must be heard. They are audacious people from different countries, walks of life, and backgrounds. They can be local leaders, journalists, lawyers, environmental activists, or many other things. But they have one conviction in common: that freedom is fragile, and universal rights need protection.

  • Read about the candidates for the Human Rights Tulip 2020 here.
  • Read about other examples of previous winners of the Human Rights Tulip here.