Peruvians take to the streets to call on Congress to debate the civil unions bill in March, 2015.

© 2015 The Colectivo UnionCivilYa!

This Saturday, thousands of Peruvians are expected to take to the streets of Lima to "March for Equality". The march, the second of its kind, comes hot on the heels of a vote on a civil union bill in the Peruvian Congress. The bill, which proposed legal recognition for same-sex couples, was not passed, but it sparked one of Peru's largest public debates on the future of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.  

In the past year, Peruvian LGBT advocates have drawn attention to the prejudices that they face. A 2014 report, researched and published by Peruvian groups, found that about half of all interviewees had experienced some form of discrimination or violence. In the most serious cases, interviewees reported workplace or educational discrimination, beatings at home, and sexual violence on account of their gender identity.

Based on these experiences, and legal developments in other parts of Latin America, advocates have also called for better gender identity laws, hate crime legislation recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity, and anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people.

Despite greater visibility – or perhaps because of it – Catholic and evangelical leaders have sharply criticized these developments. The former president of the Catholic Episcopal Conference publicly referred to the Congressman who introduced the civil union bill, Carlos Bruce, as a “maricón” on national media. (The term is a derogatory slur for a gay man.)

Saturday’s march comes at an important time for Peru. As the country prepares for general elections in 2016, advocates are determined to ensure LGBT rights remain part of the national political debate.