Press Release

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the IACHR Calls on States to Provide Comprehensive Protection for the Lives of Trans and Gender-Diverse People

November 20, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its concern over the grave violence and discrimination to which trans people are still subjected to due to their gender identity. The IACHR urges OAS member states to take the measures needed to reduce the vulnerability of trans people to all forms of violence that are motivated by prejudices against their gender identity and/or expression. It also calls on states to end the social exclusion of trans and gender-diverse people by guaranteeing them full access to all human rights.

According to information the IACHR has received from civil society organizations, since September 2017, 330 trans people have been murdered in cruel and vicious ways in the Americas. The IACHR also notes that the overlapping of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia means that this prejudice has a disproportionate effect on trans women who are poor, of African descent, migrants, or sex workers. In its Report on Violence against LGBTI People, the IACHR found that trans women are the most vulnerable social group in the region.

Violence against trans women has been recorded in different countries in the Americas. For example, the IACHR was informed of the violence experienced by Lourdes Reinoso, who was stabbed to death in Argentina in January 2018, along with her 80-year-old great-aunt. Paloma, an older trans woman, died in February 2018 in a hospital in Santiago, Chile, from medical complications caused by a reported transphobic attack. Sheila, a trans woman and sex worker, was shot in March in Tepic, Mexico. Yoselyn was found decapitated inside a hotel room in Veracruz, Mexico, in April. Gretchen Alina, a trans woman and drag queen was strangled at her home in Nuevo León State, Mexico. Alaska Contreras Ponce, a trans woman and gay queen from Veracruz, Mexico, was found dead with signs of torture. Adely, a trans woman and sex worker, was stabbed in March in Alto, Bolivia. Ada Mía Naomi, a public official working at SENAVE in Peru, was killed with a machete and later incinerated in the middle of a forest in Piribebuy. Lili, a Venezuelan immigrant and sex worker, was killed in August in Valledupar, Colombia. Cárol Pérez Guerrero was killed in September as she was about to close her beauty salon in Ciudad Bolívar, Colombia. Nikol Ortellado was murdered in Puerto Obligado, Paraguay, two days before the LGBTI Pride March. Marisa Félix Sánchez, a trans woman of African descent and Haitian nationality, was found dead with a deep cranial wound in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Priscilla was murdered in São Paulo in the context of the recent Brazilian elections amidst shouts and screams denouncing LGBTI rights. There are many other such cases.

The IACHR wishes to stress that violence against LGBTI people is seriously underreported in the Americas. This is because LGBTI people and their families face multiple obstacles and barriers in accessing justice, including mistreatment by police officers and disbelief or discredit on the part of authorities; fear of revenge or reprisals and increased victimization; fear of being discriminated against after revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity; and a lack of sensitivity and training among those working in the judiciary. To compound this, most states do not have data collection systems that properly record victims’ gender identities. As a result, the number of violent deaths among trans people are not publicized or are not recorded as being motivated by prejudice against sexual diversity.

The IACHR understands that violence against trans people is the outcome of a combination of factors, including the social phenomenon of prejudice, lack of recognition of diverse gender identities, discrimination, exclusion, and social violence in general. In the words of Commissioner Flavia Piovesan, the IACHR rapporteur on LGBTI rights, “the current context in the region is a challenging one. Trans people are among the most vulnerable social groups and suffer high levels of discrimination from childhood onward because their identity and gender are not recognized.” She went on to say that “states are obliged to implement official systems for recognizing this identity. Changes to legal records also guarantee comprehensive protection for these people, which includes ensuring their human rights are guaranteed and protected throughout their lives.”

The IACHR reminds states that they have a specific obligation to gradually modify social and cultural behavioral patterns to counter prejudice, customs, and practices that are detrimental to gender-diverse people. The IACHR also calls on states to conduct thorough, impartial investigations into cases of violence against transgender people within their borders and to take effective measures to prosecute, punish, and provide redress for violence against transgender people.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 247/18