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Mexican civil society leader convicted of “gender based political violence” over censored tweets appeals to international community

  • Rodrigo Iván Cortés, civil society leader and former Mexican Congressman, was convicted of various forms of “violence” for social media posts relating to gender. 
  • This week, Cortés, whose legal defense is supported by ADF International, addressed the Organization of American States calling attention to Mexico’s violation of his right to free speech.

MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON, DC (22 June 2022) – Civil society leader and former Mexican Congressman, Rodrigo Iván Cortés, has been convicted of “gender based political violence” over posts on Twitter and Facebook referring to transgender-identifying Mexican Congressional representative, Salma Luévano, as a “man who self-ascribes as a woman”. On Wednesday, Cortés addressed the Organization of American States (OAS), asking the international body to intervene with regard to the “systematic violations of fundamental rights” occurring in Mexico. 

Cortés, head of political advocacy group Frente Nacional por la Familia (“National Front for the Family” or FNF), has been convicted by a Mexican court for “gender-based political violence,” in addition to “digital, symbolic, psychological, and sexual violence,” for using masculine references on Twitter and Facebook with regard to Luévano. He is currently awaiting a ruling on his appeal. 

In his statement to the OAS, Cortés called attention to his experience of state-imposed censorship, stating: “[In Mexico] the freedom of expression of citizens is canceled and their free participation in the democratic conformation of laws is prevented. Unfortunately, I suffer this in my own flesh in the cases that are being carried out against me and the organization that I preside over, the National Front for the Family, for objecting to initiatives that ostensibly violate human rights”.  

Cortés came under fire for posting on social media in response to draft legislation in Mexico’s congress that would label the teaching of Christian views on sexuality as “hate speech”. 

“Disagreement is not discrimination, and peaceful dissent should never be penalized as violence. It is deeply disturbing that Cortés, who is exercising his right to peaceably share his views on a matter of significant current debate, has been convicted as a violent political offender when in fact it is his opponents that have a history of perpetuating unrest within Mexico’s political institutions. We eagerly await a ruling on his appeal,” stated Kristina Hjelkrem, legal counsel for ADF International, which is providing legal support to Cortés’ defense. 

Series of 9 social media posts results in conviction as violent offender 

For full details on Cortés’ case, visit HERE.  

Beginning in September 2022, Frente Nacional por la Familia, the organization that Cortés leads, expressed concern on Twitter that a bill presented by Salma Luévano, a Congressional representative who identifies as transgender, constituted a grave violation of the rights to freedom of speech and religious freedom in Mexico. The bill aimed to penalize Christian teaching on sexuality as a form of “hate speech”. It garnered significant attention when Luévano presented the bill wearing the vestments of a Catholic bishop. 

Luévano filed a complaint against Cortés, arguing that a series of 9 social media posts on Twitter and Facebook constituted a violation of the right to be acknowledged as a woman and a “denial of identity”. Following the complaint, Cortés was charged and convicted of “gender based political violence”. 

Luévano, together with transgender identifying representative María Clemente, is known for various incidents in Mexico’s Congress, including arguing with Congressman Gabriel Quadri on the question of transgender identity (whom Luévano has likewise sued); insisting on the Congressman’s expulsion; and supporting the physical forcing out of the chairman of the session from his seat over the matter. Clemente also prompted international outrage by tweeting explicit videos of Clemente’s own “sex work,” citing a right to freely share this kind of content on digital platforms. 

Luévano and Clemente are members of the MORENA party, which has promoted constitutional amendments to enshrine “sexual rights,” without age distinctions, which would include minors; a proposal that the FNF criticized in one of the social media posts.  

“The real purpose of this process is to silence me from saying what every concerned citizen needs to hear—that these proposed laws are driving forward a radical agenda, which poses a very serious threat to the wellbeing of our society, especially our children,” Cortés stated. 

He added: “I remain committed to the peaceful expression of truth, the defense of our fundamental freedoms, and the protection of our children. Further, I reject violence on all grounds. One need only watch the videos of unrest in our Congress to see clearly that it is not me and my organization that is bringing chaos and disorder into Mexico’s political institutions”. 

“Free speech is greatly threatened in Mexico at this time, and it has hit a crisis point with courts imposing severe censorship sanctions for the peaceful expression of views as evidenced by this egregious case. Unfortunately, Cortés’ case is far from an isolated incident,” added Hjelkrem. 

The fight for free speech in Mexico continues 

Cortés has appealed his case to the Superior Chamber in Mexico, his last option for legal remedy in Mexico. ADF International is supporting his legal defense. 

ADF international also has filed the case of Mexican Congressman Gabriel Quadri at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Quadri was convicted of “gender-based political violence” on the basis of his tweets on transgender ideology as a result of a complaint also filed by Salma Luévano. He is awaiting a decision on admissibility by the Commission. 

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