LGBT rights in the Dominican Republic

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StatusLegal since 1822[1][2]
Discrimination protections(see below)
Family rights
RestrictionsSame-sex marriage constitutionally banned

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the Dominican Republic do not enjoy the same rights as non-LGBT residents, and face legal and social challenges that are not experienced by other people. While the Dominican Criminal Code does not expressly prohibit homosexuality or cross-dressing, it also does not address discrimination or harassment on the account of sexual orientation or gender identity, nor does it recognize same sex unions in any form, whether it be marriage or partnerships. Household headed by same-sex couples are also not eligible for any of the same rights given to opposite-sex married couples, as same sex marriage is constitutionally banned in the country.

A majority of Dominicans affiliate with the Catholic Church. As such, attitudes towards members of the LGBT community tend to reflect prevailing Catholic mores. Support for same-sex marriage was 25% according to a 2013/2014 opinion poll.[3]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Homosexuality laws in Central America and the Caribbean Islands.
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Country subject to IACHR ruling
  No recognition of same-sex couples
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal but law not enforced

Consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults in private have been legal in the Dominican Republic since 1822 and the age of consent is set equally at 18 years of age. Previously, the Penal Code criminalised any act that was deemed to be in violation of "decorum and good behaviour" in public, and imposed fines and up to two years imprisonment. This law was sometimes used by police officers to harass, fine or jail same-sex couples who engage in public displays of affection.[4][5] This was repealed in 1997 through an amendment to the Criminal Code.

Members of the police force are nevertheless subject to different legal standards. Article 210 of the 1966 Police Justice Code still outlaws sodomy (defined as a "sexual act between persons of the same sex") among members of police forces.[6]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

The family law statutes of the Dominican Republic do not recognize any legal status between persons of the same-sex, neither marriage nor any marriage-like relationship like civil partnerships or domestic partnerships. The Constitution was amended in 2010 to read in Article 55 that: "The State shall promote and protect the family organization based on the institution of marriage between a man and a woman", as part of a series of changes that banned abortion, stripped native-born children of illegal immigrants of their citizenship, and authorized the private ownership of beaches.[7][8]

However, there are also laws that could be used to justify recognition of such relationships. Article 41, 'Validity of Marriage', of law 544-14, 'Derecho Internacional Privado de La República Dominicana', states that "Marriage is valid ... if it is considered as such by the law of the place of celebration, or by the national law, or of the domicile of at least one of the spouses at the time of the celebration."[9]

2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling[edit]

In January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the American Convention on Human Rights mandates and requires the recognition of same-sex marriage. The ruling was fully binding on Costa Rica and sets a binding precedent for other Latin American and Caribbean countries including the Dominican Republic.[3]

Several Dominican legal experts have since announced that the Dominican Republic must legalise same-sex marriage and implement the IACHR ruling in due course.[10]

Discrimination protections[edit]

In the Dominican Republic, few legal instruments in some specific areas protect LGBT people from discrimination. Since 2000, the General Law on Youth (Law 49/2000) (Spanish: Ley General de Juventud No. 49-2000) has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[11] Article 11 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in effect since 2007, establishes that judges and prosecutors must take into account the particular circumstances of each person involved in each case but cannot base their decisions solely based on their sexual orientation.[12] Since 2011, the Law 135/2011 on HIV/AIDS (Spanish: Ley de VIH/SIDA No. 135-11) has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[13]

Discrimination on account of sexual orientation or gender identity is not illegal in areas such as employment, education, housing, health care, banking, transportation, government services and public accommodations. As a result, many LGBT people feel the need to remain in the closet and reports of anti-gay discrimination are quite common.[14]

Hate crimes[edit]

LGBT people in the Dominican Republic have sometimes been the targets of violence. From 2006 to 2009, official sources reported the murder of at least 14 transgender sex workers.[15] Bias-motivated crimes have also been reported against LGBT people from the middle and upper classes, including TV producer Micky Breton and Claudio Nasco.[16] Other prominent people who have the targets of such violence include film director Jean Luis Jorge, journalist Víctor Gulías, Dr. Jesús Díaz Almánzar, and William Cordero.[17] In 2014, Van Teasley, a visiting American lawyer and gay activist, was found murdered in his Santo Domingo apartment.[18]

A new Penal Code that included provisions banning hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation was expected to take effect in December 2015, but it was deemed unconstitutional shortly before taking effect by the Constitutional Court because its sections regarding abortion were "plagued with irregularities and violations".[19] In 2016, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies approved modifications to the initial version by fully criminalising abortion.[20] Sexual orientation-based hate crimes would have remained banned under this version. However, President Danilo Medina vetoed it in December 2016, asking deputies to legalise abortion in cases of rape, incest and saving the mother's life.[21] A new draft bill was introduced in August 2017 by two deputies, leaving out all parts in regards to abortion. The two deputies stated that abortion should be regulated in a separate law, and complained that this issue had delayed the enactment of other important measures.[22][23]

If finally approved, the Penal Code would provide penalties of between 30 and 60 years imprisonment for hate crimes. In addition, those who cause torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to anyone because of their sexual orientation could be sentenced to 30 to 40 years in prison.[24][25]

Access to health care services[edit]

Citizens of the Dominican Republic have a constitutional right to access health care services. Health care programs for the LGBT community in the Dominican Republic have generally focused on HIV/AIDS education, which are often run by non-governmental organizations.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Transgender people in the Dominican Republic are not allowed to change their legal gender and name to reflect their gender identity.

In June 2018, President Danilo Medina issued an executive decree granting 35 transgender Dominicans the possibility to change their legal name so that it matches their gender identity. Television journalist Mía Cepeda was one of the 35 individuals and subsequently managed to change her name to reflect her transgender status.[26]

Living conditions[edit]

The socially conservative mores of the Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant denominations hold significant sway in both public policy and prevailing attitudes surrounding LGBT rights. Recent reports suggest that signs of a visible, politically active LGBT community are often targets of a government crackdown, often with the support of religious leaders.

In the summer of 2006, several gay clubs and bars in Santo Domingo were shut down as part of a program of police harassment.[27]

In 2012, members of the police department crashed the LGBT Pride Parade in Santo Domingo and arrested individuals at the parade on the ground that marchers were improperly using the Dominican Republic's flag.[28]

Due to the majority of residents having conservative views, including opposition to homosexuality, the major political parties in the Dominican Republic have not expressed much public support for LGBT rights legislation.

Former U.S. Ambassador Wally Brewster (2013-2017) was openly gay and active in supporting LGBT events in the Dominican Republic, regularly meeting LGBT rights groups and publicly appearing in the Dominican media and schools with his husband. Brewster was often the target of insults from religious leaders and some politicians due to his sexual orientation. Evangelical groups started an unsuccessful petition asking the Government to expel him from the country, and called on Brewster to "go home and cook since he's married to a man."[29][30]

During an April 2017 LGBT conference held in Santo Domingo, Minister of Women's Affairs Janet Camilo, speaking on behalf of the Dominican Government, said that "everyone should be equal under the law and in society" and that the Government was "doing everything possible to build and fight for equality, for an inclusive society for everyone." The conference was attended by LGBT activists from across Latin America, including Rosmit Mantilla, member of the Venezuelan opposition Popular Will party.[31]


Prostitution has become a harsh necessity for some members of the LGBT community, who find it difficult to earn their living in the formal economic sector because of high levels of discrimination and harassment that LGBT people often face. Poverty, drug addiction and violence often surround the men and transgender people who become prostitutes.[32]

Non-governmental organizations[edit]

Amigos Siempre Amigos (ASA; "Friends Always Friends") is a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Dominican Republic that addresses health concerns among the LGBT community.[33]

Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA, "Trans Always Friends") is another Dominican Republic-based organization that promotes respect, fairness, and tolerance of the transgender community.[34]

Diversidad Dominicana is an activist organization that supports LGBT rights.[35]

Public opinion[edit]

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted between 2 November 2013 and 2 February 2014, 25% of respondents supported same-sex marriage and 72% opposed it.[36][37]

According to a 2017 poll carried out by ILGA, 64% of Dominicans agreed that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should enjoy the same rights as straight people, while 22% disagreed. Additionally, 65% agreed that they should be protected from workplace discrimination. 20% of Dominicans, however, said that people who are in same-sex relationships should be charged as criminals, while 61% disagreed. As for transgender people, 67% agreed that they should have the same rights, 65% believed they should be protected from employment discrimination and a plurality of 45% believed they should be allowed to change their legal gender.[38]

The 2017 AmericasBarometer showed that 27% of Dominicans supported same-sex marriage.[39]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1822)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas No
Hate crimes laws include sexual orientation No (Pending)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Same-sex marriage No (Constitutional ban since 2010)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ State-sponsored Homophobia A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults Archived 19 July 2013 at WebCite
  2. ^ "Sexual consent". Avert. 23 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Inter-American Court endorses same-sex marriage". Agence France-Presse. Yahoo7. 9 January 2018. Archived from the original on 9 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  4. ^ Dominican Republic GayLawNet
  6. ^ Mendos, Lucas Ramón (2019). State-Sponsored Homophobia 2019 (PDF). Geneva: ILGA. p. 184.
  7. ^ Kurtz, Reed M. "A Giant Step Backward: The Dominican Republic Reforms Its Constitution". NACLA. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  8. ^ "Constitución Política de la República Dominicana, proclamada el 26 de enero 2010, No. 10561". Gaceta Oficial (in Spanish). 26 January 2010. Archived from the original on 21 November 2012. El Estado promoverá y protegerá la organización de la familia sobre la base de la institución del matrimonio entre un hombre y una mujer.
  9. ^ Jhon Garrido, Ley permite matrimonio entre homosexuales, El Nuevo Diario, 2 May 2019]
  10. ^ "¿Qué implica para República Dominicana que la CIDH fallara a favor de matrimonio gay? Jurista responde". 11 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Ley General de Juventud" (PDF) (in Spanish).
  12. ^ "Codigo Procesal Penal" (PDF) (in Spanish).
  13. ^ "Ley 135-11 VIH/Sida" (PDF) (in Spanish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  14. ^ Ismael Ogando. Factores de incidencia en la conducta antisocial de los jóvenes homosexuales del Centro Histórico de Santiago de los Caballeros. Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, 2007.
  15. ^ "República Dominicana: dos detenidos por caso de travestis asesinados" (in Spanish). Radio Mitos. 29 May 2013. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  16. ^ "¿Por qué acuchillan a los homosexuales?" (in Spanish). El Caribe. 9 February 2012. Archived from the original on 8 July 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  17. ^ "Crímenes homosexuales escandalizan en República Dominicana". El nuevo diario. 19 December 2013. Archived from the original on 28 December 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  18. ^ McCoy, Terrence (3 November 2014). "D.C. attorney found bound, gagged and strangled to death in Dominican Republic". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  19. ^ Diario, Listin (3 December 2015). "Sentencia del TC declara nulo nuevo Código Penal".
  20. ^ Diario, Listin (15 December 2016). "El Senado convierte en ley nuevo Código Penal".
  21. ^ "DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: VOTE ON PENDING ABORTION AFTER PRESIDENTIAL VETO". Archived from the original on 18 October 2018.
  22. ^ "Dos diputados reintroducen Código Penal, pero excluyen tema del aborto". 22 August 2017.
  23. ^ "Diputado dice aborto está abortando Código Penal". 18 June 2018.
  24. ^ "Podrían imponer penas de 40 a 60 años de cárcel por asesinar personas LGBT - CDN". CDN (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 31 December 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  25. ^ efe, Metro RD-. "Nuevo Código Penal impondrá penas de 40 a 60 años prisión para homicidas de homosexuales". Metro Republica Dominicana.
  26. ^ "Mía Cepeda promueve derechos de comunidad LGTB al cambiar de nombre".
  27. ^ "Blabbeando: Dominican Republic: Gay bars shut down". 19 June 2006.
  28. ^ "Police Interrupt Gay Pride in Dominican Republic Because Marchers Used Flag". 6 June 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  29. ^ "Gay U.S. ambassador's departure from Dominican Republic leaves void". Washington Blade. 3 April 2017.
  30. ^ Dominican religious group wants U.S. to remove gay U.S. ambassador CNN
  31. ^ "Dominican government officials speak at LGBT conference". Washington Blade. 1 April 2017.
  32. ^ Medina, César (24 December 2013). "La prostitución masculina". Listin Diario (in Spanish). Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  33. ^ "Amigos Siempre Amigos". Portal Sida (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 1 October 2017. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  34. ^ "Homepage". Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA). Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  35. ^ Marzan, Rosanna (27 April 2016). "Attacks on Brewster are attacks on LGBT Dominicans". Washington Blade. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  36. ^ "Social Attitudes on Moral Issues in Latin America". Pew Research Center. 13 November 2014.
  37. ^ "Appendix A: Methodology". Pew Research Center. 13 November 2014.
  38. ^ ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey Archived 13 January 2018 at the Wayback Machine ILGA, October 2017

External links[edit]