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Equality Advocates Condemn Police Raid on Venezuelan Gay Sauna

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Equality advocates have condemned the arrest of 33 gay men in a police raid on a sauna in Venezuela, Brazilian news outlet G1 reported.

The July 23 raid took place in Valencia, in the state of Carabobo, the report detailed. Advocates decried the charges of "public indecency" that were slapped on those who were taken into custody, noting that the gathering was in a closed room on private property.

Despite that, the detainees – all of whom, except for the sauna's owner and two massage therapists, were released – are required to check in with the police monthly until they are put on trial, the Washington Blade reported.

One equality advocate told the Blade that the raid was executed "without a search warrant, without due process" and that the detainees suffered "degrading treatment" at the hands of the police.

Moreover, G1 detailed, "photos of the detained men were released," while local media, G1 noted, put out stories claiming that the detainees were engaged in an "orgy" in which sexual acts were being recorded on video with the intention of selling those videos. Local media also made a point of claiming that at least one of the men is HIV-positive – a stigmatizing allegation that ignores safer sex practices like condom use and PrEP, which greatly diminish the chances of transmitting the virus through sexual contact.

Amnesty International spoke out against the raid and the treatment of the people who were arrested, tweeting that "the 33 prisoners were defamed, had no judicial protection, were the target of a hate campaign, arbitrarily detained and 'accused of homosexuality,'" G1 added.

"Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV is commonplace in Venezuela, a South American country that remains in the midst of an ongoing political and economic crisis," the Blade noted, recalling how HIV/AIDS service groups have been raided by police and military forces in the country in recent years.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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