Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Politics and International Relations

Reader 1

Sumita Pahwa

Reader 2

Suyapa Portillo-Villeda

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Rights Information

© 2014 Samantha Abelove


For decades LGBTQ rights have been approached purely by a legal strategy, in particular advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community continues to be a major issue in Latin America because of cultural values such as Catholicism and machismo that uphold a standard of and, in turn, have control over people’s sexuality. Using a human rights approach towards the politics of sexuality, LGBTI activists in Costa Rican and Nicaragua have been successful in transforming public opinion about sexuality and more importantly, sexual diversity. As a result of their egalitarian framework and efforts to educate people about sexual diversity, they have made great advancements toward achieving acceptance and equality for LGBTI people. This study focuses on how Costa Rican and Nicaraguan LGBTI activists have worked around traditional cultural values such as Catholicism and machismo that prevent people from accepting and tolerating LGBTI people. The examples of LGBTI activists in these two countries have important implications for other LGBTI activists and the strategies they use to try to achieve full equality (social and legal) for people whose sexual identity differs from the conventional.