Peru protesters slam new insurance law that deems transgender people mentally ill

Peru protesters slam new insurance law that deems transgender people mentally ill

LIMA (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters in Peru's capital marched on Friday to demand the scrapping of a new law that describes transgender people, among others, as having a mental illness so they can access health benefits.

Around 500 demonstrators peacefully walked the streets of downtown Lima, hoisting banners with slogans that read "No more stigmas" and "My identity is not a disease."

The law, which was approved administratively last week by the government of President Dina Boluarte, specifies that those who identify as transgender, along with "cross dressers" and "others with gender identity disorders," are considered to be diagnosed with "illnesses" that are eligible for mental health services via both public and private providers.

The protesters reached the health ministry offices, but no clashes were reported.

"Gender identities are no longer considered pathologies," said activist Gahela Cari Contreras, who accused Boluarte's government of trying to trample on the LGBTQ+ community's rights. "We're not going to let them."

Critics of the law have argued that its update of the country's PEAS health regulations was unnecessary, since existing rules already allowed for universal access to mental health services.

Government officials have sought to chalk up the controversy as a misunderstanding.

In a statement released shortly after the law was promulgated, the health ministry insisted that it rejects the stigmatization of LGBTQ+ people and that the legal language simply seeks to ensure more complete health coverage.

The ministry "categorically reaffirms respect for the dignity of the person and their free actions within the framework of human rights, providing health services for their benefit," according to the statement.

Despite the ministry's argument, the protesters were not persuaded and some medical experts advocated for the law to be corrected via an amendment.

"We don't see any need to incorporate diagnoses or pathologies that no longer exist into health insurance plans," said Pedro Riega Lopez, dean of Peru's CMP medical college and himself a doctor.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; Additional reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Raju Gopalakrishnan)