Stigma, discrimination, persecution and murder: Transphobia in Latin America

May 16, 2011

Posted by Marcela Romero

Regional Coordinator for the Latin America and the Caribbean Network of Transgender People (REDLACTRANS)

My name is Marcela Romero and I’m the Regional Coordinator for the Latin America and the Caribbean Network of Transgender People (REDLACTRANS). I am a trans woman. I fought for 10 years to be legally recognised as a woman in my country, Argentina.

As we mark International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia I write with a heavy heart.

Around the world trans people face stigma, discrimination, persecution and murder. Between January and June last year the media reported 93 transgender people murdered. Eight out of 10 occurred in Latin America. Already in 2011 there have been 37 further murders.

We are being killed for being different; killed for daring to challenge social stereotypes; killed for being proud to be who we are. Homophobia and transphobia are spreading, nurtured by a culture of machismo and religious conservatism. Violence and hate crimes against sexual minorities are growing. In Guatemala the average life expectancy for a trans person is just 25 years.

Along with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance we have also been raising concerns that our community continues to be hard hit by HIV and AIDS. Persecution is undermining efforts by transgender and HIV organisations to reach out with HIV prevention programmes. Most Latin American countries have a HIV prevalence rate of 0.5-1%, among trans people rates are 35%. This situation cannot improve until our human rights are respected.

But we will not be beaten. In 2008 we lobbied to get the Organisation of American States (OAS) to unanimously approve a Resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity which urged States to ensure violations committed against sexual minorities are investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice. This was reaffirmed in 2009 and 2010.

Despite this significant commitment, hate crimes increase and our members continue to witness threats and violence on a regular basis. Commitments must be matched by actions.

The international community has an important role to play in addressing the human rights violations we are facing. They need to place human rights at the centre of their political dialogues and negotiations. They must call for an end to impunity for human rights violations and challenge criminal legislation that is being used to prosecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation or HIV status.

Today, we are calling on member states to honour their commitments, take action to protect our community and stop the killing.

How many more trans people will have to die before someone sits up takes notice and does something about it? Please, don’t let’s get to next year’s International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia and still be saying the same thing.

Take action!

Protect transgender people from hate crimes on the Alliance’s ‘What’s Preventing Prevention?’ campaign site.

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