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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Mexico: murder of transgender woman sparks protest


Gaby’s death has had a major impact on other sex workers in the area, making them feel extremely vulnerable and preventing many from going to work (c) Aids Alliance

The murder of Gaby, a transgender woman, in Guadalajara, Mexico, has sparked demonstrations in the city, with activists fighting for the human rights of the transgender population.

Gaby’s murder is yet another case in a long list of hate crimes against transgender people, reported daily in Mexico and across Latin America.

As Key Correspondent Priscila Hernandez has reported, there have been six transphobic murders in Guadalajara since January. Victor Dantes, of Checcos, links the increase in violence in Mexico to the lack of security in the country, fostered by the growing battle against organised crime, where the conflict is primarily affecting the most vulnerable populations, among these, transgender people.

Gaby was a sex worker in Plaza del Sol, a well-known red light district in the city. She worked in HIV prevention and formed part of the Mexican Network of Trans Women.

Gaby’s death has had a major impact on other sex workers in the area, making them feel extremely vulnerable and preventing many from going to work, for fear of what will happen if they do.

Transgender sex workers face abuse on a daily basis. One of the women reported “people shout insults at us; they throw things at us and try to assault us. There’s a lot of ignorance and they do it to upset us.”

According to Armando Diaz, therapist, psychologist and member of the Centre of Sexual Diversity and Rights (CDDS), “it is a very deep hatred that leads to these kinds of incidents; it is not a personal matter. It’s an abhorrence that comes from people’s difficulty in understanding how someone can live their life in a different body from the one they were born with. Transgender people put up with daily verbal abuse that is naturalised and institutionalised. People think it’s natural to attack transgender people.”

“Hate crimes based on ignorance”

Patricia Betancourt, the Regional Sub-coordinator for Central America and Mexico of REDLACTRANS (the Latin American Network of Transgender people), an Alliance partner organisation, states that “transphobic hate crimes are based on an ignorance of sexual diversity and fuelled by a macho society…a murder resulting from transphobia reveals a deep hatred. It is extremely important to investigate and treat these crimes very seriously.”

One of REDLACTRANS’ key objectives is to develop a system for monitoring and reporting cases of transphobic crime. Betancourt stresses the importance of documenting these crimes in order to produce accurate statistics and alert the general public to the extent of the issue. However, proving that a crime was motivated by transphobia is somewhat difficult, and without evidence of the motives, a murder cannot be classified as ‘transphobic’.

Cesar Coria of Colectivo Sol, our Linking Organisation in Mexico believes that “regardless of the motives behind Gaby’s murder, what undoubtedly shows transphobia and intolerance against this population are the indifference and minimal effort with which the authorities are carrying out their investigation. It is clear that the extent of the violence committed against Gaby shows a disregard for her life and integrity, which warrants a thorough investigation.”

HIV Prevention: reducing stigma and discrimination

Two of the organisations interviewed in this article, Checcos and the CDDS, form part of Respondiendo, a project that Colectivo Sol are running, funded by AIDSTAR Two through the Alliance. The aim of the project has been to create a virtual interactive space where organisations can share ideas and experiences of implementing the 9 most used prevention strategies in Mexico, including ‘reduction of stigma and discrimination’.

Tackling stigma and discrimination against key populations is a long-term project, and despite progress being made by organisations such as REDLACTRANS and Colectivo Sol, there is still a long way to go.

Take action

Visit our 'What's preventing prevention?' campaign site to take action to protect transgender people in Latin America.

Read more on events in Guadalajara in these reports by Priscila Hernandez, a Key Correspondent from Mexico (in Spanish): 

Dolor e indignación en Jalisco por crimen de odio contra chica trans

“¿Contra quién hay que luchar? ¿Quién es el asesino?”