Venezuela and the UK connect to promote diversity and inclusion
Amidst a myriad of human rights issues in Venezuela, given the current economic and political crisis, the plight of the local LGBTIQ community is seldom highlighted as a priority by local or international actors. Members of the LGBTIQ community are not only affected by wider challenges affecting Venezuelan society but are frequently targeted due to their sexual orientation. LGBTIQ people are exposed to arbitrary arrests, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. In 2017, a poll commissioned by the local NGO Citizen Action against AIDS (ACCSI) found that about 56% of the hate crimes were against transgender people.
To promote inclusion and diversity using the arts as a platform to spread messages of equality on identity issues, and in support of the LGBTI community in Venezuela, the British Council invited the British theater company Rhum and Clay to present the play "Testosterone" based on the autobiographical experiences of the transgender actor Kit Redstone. The programme included the development of the first Physical Theater Workshop ever given in Venezuela, and activities in which the theatre group presented diverse perspectives and opened a space of reflection and introspection on the masculine essence of the human being; offering a new and innovative approach to the identity theme in Venezuela. This project was a soft-power initiative aimed to reinforce the global perception of the UK as a diverse, modern, multicultural society and a champion of the rights of the LGBTI community.
The visit of the Company Rhum & Clay to Venezuela was an extraordinary opportunity for cultural exchange and to disseminate key equality messages. Young professionals from the arts sector expressed their views and gratitude to the members of this company, which is the only foreign company that has performed in Caracas in 2019. It was also a great opportunity to develop an international outlook by presenting in Venezuela a theatre production that won the award for best show at The Pleasance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017.
Even despite the critical political, economic and social situation, the cast of this company accepted the invitation to perform in Caracas. It was of great benefit for them to be able to share their work with the Venezuelan audience and to have the chance to exchange experiences with LGBTQ communities from far away countries such ours. In the words of their artistic director Julian Spooner: "The most important and inspiring moments to do theatre are in places where there are social problems."
The project provided the perfect platform to link artists, LGBTI activists and human rights defenders from both countries in a programme that promoted values of diversity and inclusion. The knowledge and experience of the UK in this area made a positive contribution to the Venezuelan LGBTI community by raising awareness of the current challenges they face.