Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Stop the violence against transgender people in Latin America

2
MAY
2011

Marcelo Romero, Regional Coordinator, REDLACTRANS

Ahead of the 41st Organisation of American States General Assembly in El Salvador in June, and as part of the Alliance’s recognition of the 7th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May, this article highlights the urgent need to stop the killings, violence and discrimination against transgender people and end widespread impunity for transphobia crimes, particularly in Latin America.

For some time, the Alliance has been raising concerns about the killings of transgender women in Latin America and how this issue is seriously undermining efforts by transgender and HIV organisations to reach out with HIV prevention programmes.

Worrying trends

In January we described how between January and June 2010, the world’s media reported the murder of 93 transgender people.  8 out of 10 of these murders occurred in Latin America.  In 2011, there have already been 37  further murders.

With international funders of the HIV response retreating from Latin America (most countries becoming ‘middle income’ and therefore non-eligible for international aid) and increased national funding not always focused on communities at higher risk of HIV, transgender and other civil society organisations are struggling to maintain their HIV programmes and services.

In a region where transgender people are discriminated against because of their gender identity, often by their own governments, less international scrutiny will only increase the number of human rights violations taking place with greater impunity and further undermine the HIV response in the region.

There are an estimated 1.4 million people living with HIV in Latin America. For the last 30 years the transgender community in Latin America have been almost invisible.  HIV monitoring focused solely on men who have sex with men, so the exact number of transgender people with HIV was not known.  However, recent studies have shown that where most Latin American countries have a HIV prevalence rate of 0.5 – 1%, among transgender people prevalence rates are estimated to be 35%.

Regional advocacy

Alliance partner, REDLACTRANS (the Latin America and the Caribbean network of transgender people) has gained increasing recognition and influence among institutions and civil society networks at national, regional and international levels.

Through their successful advocacy efforts in 2008, the Organisation of American States (OAS) approved unanimously a Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity which expressed concern about the violence and human rights abuses in the region.

The 2008 Resolution urged States to protect human rights defenders working on this issue, and ensure that acts of violence and human rights violations committed against sexual minorities are investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.

In 2009 and 2010, the OAS reaffirmed the 2008 text and further called on governments to ensure that victims are given full access to justice and to combat discrimination against sexual minorities.

Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator of REDLACTRANS said: ‘The OAS has made a significant commitment to protecting transgender people.  However, despite this, the hate crimes targeted against the transgender community have increased and our members continue to witness threats and violence on a regular basis.

‘The OAS commitments now need to be matched by specific actions by individual States. They have an international obligation to act upon the commitments made in the OAS General Assembly.’

International community action required

The international community, including donors, also have an important role to play in addressing these human rights violations in their funding allocations and in their political dialogue with Latin American states. 

Romero said: ‘We want the international community to place human rights at the centre of their response to AIDS in Latin America. They must demand better monitoring of progress in the response to HIV from partner countries, call for an end to impunity for human rights violations perpetrated against transgender people, and challenge criminal legislation being used to prosecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation or HIV status.

'On the occasion of the 2011 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we are calling on the international community and American states to honour their commitments, take action to protect our community and stop the killings.'

Renewing the call to action at the OAS General Assembly

On 17 May 2011, as part of the Alliance’s What’s preventing prevention? campaign, REDLACTRANS will be calling on member States of the OAS to honour the commitments already made and take immediate action to stop the killing of transgender people and protect their human rights.

  • Download our recent Campaign briefing on HIV and Human Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. 
  • Read more about the Alliance’s work in the Latin America and the Caribbean region and watch our recent video which features the work of REDLACTRANS.
  • Visit the REDLACTRANS website (Spanish).
    Honour commitments, take action to protect our community and stop the killings.