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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Transgender violence: keeping the pressure on


Peer educator Fabiana talking to transgenders sex workers on the streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador © Gideon Mendel for the Alliance

To mark the 16 days of activism against gender violence, the Alliance is once again calling for an end to the killings, violence and discrimination against transgender people in Latin America.

As the 16 days of activism against gender violence international campaign begins on 25 November, the Alliance is pleased to announce some progress has been made in the fight to protect transgender women and ensure transgender and HIV organisations are able to successfully reach out with HIV prevention programmes.

The violence and its impact

In the first nine months of 2011, 116 transgender people were reported murdered globally, according to Trans Murder Monitoring.  Most of these murders occurred in Latin America - 29 in Brazil, 22 in Mexico, 11 in Venezuela and 10 in Colombia, as well as murders in 10 other Latin America countries.

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.

Campaign for change

Working with our regional partner, REDLACTRANS (the Latin America and the Caribbean network of transgender people), the Alliance has been campaigning to stop the violence against transgender people.

Back in May, we launched an appeal ahead of the 41st Organisation of American States General Assembly where we called on the international community and American states to honour their commitments. American States adopted a resolution condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Some recognition at last

In the last month, the Alliance is pleased to report two significant developments.

Firstly, on 3 November the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced it would create a Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons, in order to strengthen its capacity to protect their rights. 

In recent years the IACHR has closely followed the situation of the rights of LGBTI persons, primarily through precautionary measures, hearings, country visits, and promotional activities. The Commission has sought to protect and promote their rights and has witnessed the serious human rights violations that many of these individuals face in their daily lives. 

Anamaria Bejar, Head of Latin America and Caribbean Team at the Alliance said: ‘This is a historic step for the realization of LGBTI rights in the region. Creating the new Unit, and its specific inclusion of transgender people, is a confirmation by the IACHR that this community faces serious discrimination, both in fact and in law.  It is also a significant step forward in terms of bringing an end to the widespread impunity for transphobia crimes, particularly in Latin America.’

The second development is taking place at the national level. Parliaments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina, as well as other Latin American countries, are currently discussing gender identity laws proposed by the LGBT community. Members of REDLACTRANS have actively participated in the design of these laws to make sure transgenders rights are included.   The new legislation includes clauses which would allow transgender people the right to change their names and have official identity documents that reflect their gender identity.

Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator of REDLACTRANS said: “The progress is significant. For the last 30 years the transgender community in Latin America has been almost invisible. HIV policies focused solely on men who have sex with men (MSM), 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%. It is essential that Governments and the international community begin to recognise us in our own right.’

Our work continues

As we prepare to mark World AIDS Day (1 December) and International Human Rights Day (10 December) – which also marks the end of the 16 day period of activism against gender violence - the Alliance continues to work to raise awareness of the continuing violence against transgender women in Latin America and working alongside other key stakeholders like the Pan-American Health Organisation.

  • Download our 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 video which features the work of REDLACTRANS.
  • Visit the REDLACTRANS website (Spanish).
    It is a significant step forward in terms of bringing an end to the widespread impunity for transphobia crimes, particularly in Latin America.