Since 1994, Martha Álvarez had been serving a sentence at the Pereira Detention Center in Colombia. Although heterosexual couples had the right to enjoy intimate visits, Martha Álvarez and her then life partner were denied this right.
For two years, Martha fought for her right to have intimate encounters with her partner and went as far as filing a complaint with the Ombudsman. While this resulted in authorization for a visit from her partner, the warden at Pereira ignored this authorization and denied Martha´s permission to receive a visit from her girlfriend. The warden later justified her decision by arguing that this right did not apply to the homosexuals, as it presented a set of security, disciplinary and moral risks.
These acts of discrimination were followed by more than a dozen transfers to multiple prisons throughout Colombia, and lead to the end of the relationship with her partner. All transfers were made without any objective or reasonable reason. In certain cases, Martha became the target of physical and verbal aggressions in the prisons she was sent to.
Despite the October 2001 decision by Colombia´s Supreme Court which guaranteed another inmate the right to conjugal visits with her partner, Martha Álvarez was continuously deprived that right for another eight years. Finally, on December 16, 2002, Martha received her first visit from her then partner. Unfortunately, her struggles over the past eight years and experiences dealing with discriminatory and homophobic treatment left Martha with an immense sense of frustration and loneliness which would go on to affect her current and future relationships .
The case was presented before the Inter-American Human Rights System by the Red Nacional de Mujeres, Colombia Diversa and the Center for Justice and International Law. It is expected that, on December 6, 2017, the State will ratify a compliance agreement based on the recommendations made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with the goal of fully repairing Martha Álvarez and presenting more detailed information on the progress made regarding the prison situation of LGBTI people.