IACHR Urges States to Promote the Political Participation of Transgender People

March 31, 2024

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Washington, D.C. — On the occasion of the International Transgender Day of Visibility, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges States to take measures to guarantee the political rights of trans and gender nonbinary people through concrete actions to protect their right to vote under equal conditions, promote opportunities for them to access to public or elected office, encourage their participation in public affairs, prevent political violence against them, and guarantee they can remain in positions they hold.

Significant achievements have been made in this area in the Americas. These include electoral protocols for the appropriate assistance of transgender people who come to vote, training for polling station personnel, and the possibility of registering voters according to their gender identity, even if their identity documents are still pending adjustments. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of transgender people running for and being elected to public office.

However, significant challenges continue to affect the full political participation of transgender people. First, the lack of appropriate mechanisms for acknowledging gender identity in identity documents results in differential barriers and discrimination based on gender identity and expression. For example, trans people may be prevented from exercising their right to vote if their identity documents do not match their gender identity and expression. Similarly, in many contexts, they are forced to run for elected office under names that do not identify them.

It has also been observed with concern that trans people who hold public office suffer political violence that is aggravated by their gender identity and expression, even within parliaments. The IACHR has also learned of murders and other acts of violence against trans and nonbinary people holding positions of political leadership. Likewise, civil society organizations have denounced an increase in bias-motivated violence during elections that disproportionately affects trans and nonbinary people.

The American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments enshrine the fundamental principles of human dignity, equality, and nondiscrimination. Based on these instruments, the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have adopted evolving interpretations that guarantee recognition of the right to gender identity and/or expression.

In this sense, various States in the region have made progress in fully recognizing transgender identities, allowing individuals to determine their gender during the adaptation of identity documents without pathologizing requirements, including by recognizing nonbinary identities in official documents. Progress has also been made in facilitating voting rights for trans people, even in places where comprehensive legislation does not exist.

The IACHR calls upon States to implement and promote public policies that address the concrete effects of the historical exclusion of trans people, which has prevented them from participating in public affairs. The first step toward achieving this objective is the recognition of gender identity, which is essential for the exercise of all rights. In this sense, States must guarantee the appropriateness of identity documents and the recognition of gender identity, taking concrete measures to reduce gaps in participation in elections.

States have an obligation to prevent and punish violence against trans people. During elections, they must also guarantee their lives and integrity, which are threatened by contexts of structural violence. The necessary security measures must be in place to protect those who hold public office and allow them to go about their work freely and influence decision-making spaces. Implementing effective mechanisms for reporting and investigating political violence is of vital importance.

The IACHR expresses its willingness to work with States and civil society to promote and guarantee the human rights of trans, nonbinary, and gender-diverse people.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 065/24

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