By: Mónica B. Ocasio Vega
Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, President of the Puerto Rico Bar Association attended the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez as a key-note speaker in the Figueroa Chapel Amphitheater. On Tuesday March 5 2014, Rivera-Lassén expressed her professional opinion on human rights and anti-discrimination struggles, as the opening key-note conference ¿Del Otro La’o Del Derecho O El Derecho Del Otro La’o? (On the other side of law? or The law from the other side?) for the V Coloquio ¿Del otro La’o?: perspectivas sobre sexualidades “queer”. ((Fifth colloquium, from the other side?: perspectives on queer sexualities).
More than 60 people listened as the third woman and the first –ever Afro-Puerto Rican president of the Bar Association focused on her area of expertise, human rights. She told the audience that “Puerto Rico speaks about civil rights, but not human rights,” which is why a change of perspective is needed in the country. She added that public debates push society to demand its rights.
As the first-ever openly lesbian president of the Bar Association, Rivera Lassén’s main idea for the conference was the need of inclusion in civil and human rights struggles in Puerto Rico.
To clarify her opinion, the Bar Association president related her experience of becoming elected as president: “when I was running for president I said to the voters: ‘Don’t take under consideration stereotypes, prejudice or anything apart from reason’.”
The speaker mentioned Puerto Rico’s current struggles for rights: the demand for same-sex couples to have parental rights on their children, the recent law banning discrimination for sexual orientation in the workplace; and the extension of Law 54 (regarding domestic violence) for same-sex couples.
Rivera Lassén explained that the concept of Law itself is constantly growing; it maintains its meaning but continues expanding to incorporate more people and satisfy the needs of the context.
The audience seemed interested in the arguments exposed by Rivera Lassén exposed. Aurelie Arnould, Social Sciences student and audience member, said: “I really enjoyed the conference; Ana Irma Rivera is truly a perfect example of human activism and perseverance”. The conference ended with a round of questions from the audience, during which different opinions were shared and certain points clarified.