A report the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released on Wednesday indicates anti-LGBT violence claimed the lives of at least 594 people in the Western Hemisphere between Jan. 1, 2013, and March 31 of this year.
More than half of these reported deaths during this 15-month period took place in Brazil. These include an 8-year-old boy in the state of Rio de Janeiro who was allegedly killed by his father in February because he was “unable to accept his homosexuality.”
The report indicates that 29 LGBT people in Honduras, which has the world’s highest per capita murder rate, lost their lives during the 15-month period. The commission also notes 27 LGBT Americans were killed.
Discrimination contributes to anti-LGBT violence
Gay men and transgender women were most likely to lose their lives to anti-LGBT violence, according to the report.
Nearly half of the 594 murders the commission documented during the 15-month period were trans women. These include Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old trans woman of color who was beaten to death on a Manhattan street in August 2013.
The report also notes the death of Dwayne Jones, a cross-dressing Jamaican teenager who was stabbed to death outside of Montego Bay in July 2013 during a party.
The commission indicates 80 percent of trans murder victims in the Americas during the 15-month period were 35 years old or younger. Its report further concludes the average life expectancy of trans people in the Western
Hemisphere is between 30-35 years.
“Violence against trans persons, particularly trans women, is the result of a combination of factors: Exclusion, discrimination and violence within the family, schools and society at large; lack of recognition of their gender identity; involvement in occupations that put them at higher risk for violence and high criminalization,” reads a press release from the commission that announced its report. “Trans women and other gender non-conforming persons are often targeted by law enforcement agents, who tend to act upon prejudice and assume they are criminals; and are often discriminated against in the justice system.”
Rates of anti-LGBT violence often underreported
A Global Rights report that includes statistics from the Brazilian Secretariat of Human Rights indicates slightly more than half of the 300 reported LGBT murder victims in South America’s most populated country in 2012 were trans. Roughly 52 percent of them were people of color.
A report from the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender Women notes 61 trans women in Colombia were reported killed between 2005-2011. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs last year reported trans women and LGBT people of color in the U.S. are more likely to suffer “severe violence” because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.
The commission expressed concern that many countries throughout the Americas do not adequately track incidents of anti-LGBT violence. It also highlighted “severe underreporting” of police abuse based on a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.
The report further highlighted a lack of data on violence directed at intersex people.
“The majority of acts of violence against intersex persons, most notably, medical interventions seeking to ‘normalize’ their bodies is the result of state-approved medical protocols, and is not reported in the media, or denounced by the families or organizations,” said the commission’s press release.
‘Pluralities’ between marriage fight, combating anti-LGBT violence
Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday announced he has concluded Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. Maryland’s law banning anti-trans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations took effect in October.
Argentina and Uruguay in recent years have enacted comprehensive trans rights laws. Cuba offers free sex-reassignment surgery under its national health care system, although critics of President Raúl Castro’s government insist only a handful of people have been able to take advantage of this policy since it took effect in 2008.
Mexico City lawmakers last month approved a bill that would allow trans people to legally change their gender without a court order. Chilean legislators continue to debate a measure that would allow people to legally change their name and sex without sex-reassignment surgery.
Luisa Revilla Urcia in October became the first trans person elected to public office in Peru. Diane Rodríguez, a trans woman who unsuccessfully campaigned for a seat in the Ecuadorian Congress in 2013, and her partner, Nicolás Guamanquispe Poveda, in September became the first transgender couple to register their civil union in the country.
Activists in the Americas with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years insist more needs to be done to address what they describe as the underlying issues that contribute to anti-LGBT violence in the region.
Giovanny Romero Infante, executive director of the Homosexual Movement of Lima, a left-learning Peruvian LGBT advocacy group that is among the oldest in Latin America, told the Washington Blade during a September interview at his office the majority of the 20 gay and trans people who die from AIDS each week in his country are living in poverty. He urged his fellow Peruvian advocates to look beyond efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples that have become increasingly visible in the last year.
“We clearly want marriage equality because people have the right to do what they want with their lives, but in the context of 20 deaths each week of trans and gay people from AIDS and that each week there is an anti-gay crime, there are pluralities,” said Romero.
Tracy Robinson, chair of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, acknowledged to the Blade during a September interview in Lima, the Peruvian capital, that insecurity and anti-LGBT violence are “dominant” issues throughout the hemisphere. She nevertheless expressed optimism that countries will begin to adequately respond to these concerns.
“My hope is that in the long run we will see a reduction in the levels of violence, we will see a reduction in the impunity which is now widespread for violence against LGBTI persons,” she said.
by Michael K. Lavers
Source – The Washington Blade