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MIDP fellow serves as expert witness in landmark Inter-American Court of Human Rights case

Gonzalo Meneses MIDP ’23 testified on the effects of structural discrimination on the mental health of LGBTQ+ people in Olivera Fuentes v. Peru.

Duke Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) fellow Gonzalo Meneses served as a member of Christian Olivera Fuentes’ core team in the landmark Inter-American Court of Human Rights case Olivera Fuentes v. Peru.

The case refers to the international responsibility of the State of Peru for the violation of Olivera Fuentes’ rights to equality and non-discrimination before the law, personal liberty, judicial guarantees and judicial protection, as a consequence of acts of discrimination based on the expression of his sexual orientation.

Meneses provided expert testimony on the effects of structural discrimination on the mental health of LGBTQ+ people, as well as the measures states should take to prevent and repair such harm.

On April 11, 2023, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found Peru internationally responsible for sexual orientation discrimination against Olivera Fuentes, setting a precedent for LGBTQ+ people in the country’s access to justice.

The court ordered Peru to implement legal and civil policies to address discrimination against the LGBTQ+ population, as well as to promote a culture of respect, non-discrimination and the protection of this population’s rights. The court also acknowledged the harm done to Olivera Fuentes’ mental health due to the state’s structural discrimination against him, ordering Peru to provide immediate assistance and reparations to him.

Although these measures are directed at Peru and is now the responsibility of the Peruvian government to implement with immediate effect, the Inter-American Court sentences are legally binding to all Latin American countries that are part of the Organization of American States system. These countries can now cite this sentence to demand justice and advocate for policy change in favor of LGBTQ+ rights and dignity.

“This sentence will be key to continuing to fight discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in Peru and the whole Latin American region,” Meneses said, “particularly in the fields of consumer and mental health rights, through the training of administrative and judicial authorities on LGBTQ+ issues and the design and implementation of guidelines by both private and public institutions within the framework of human rights by the United Nations.”

Meneses, a Fulbright Scholar and Eva Staton Fellow, will graduate this May from Duke’s MIDP program. His master’s project, advised by H. M. Foundation Associate Professor of Public Policy Jay Pearson, examines mental health inequalities in the Peruvian LGBTQ+ population and proposes recommendations to address these inequalities.

An LGBTQ+ activist and mental health advocate, Meneses is a development practitioner with extensive experience in project management in the public and private sectors. His work focuses on public health, human rights, equity, immigration, and change management. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social psychology.