“How many more transgender people will have to die before someone sits up, takes notice and does something about it?” asks Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator of the Latin America and Caribbean Network of Transgender People (REDLACTRANS).
60 transgender women were murdered in Colombia alone between 2005 and 2012 according to a new human rights report The Night Is Another Country published last month by REDLACTRANS and the Alliance. In March 2012, the Trans Murder Monitoring project reported more than 800 murders of transgender people worldwide in the last four years.
This is likely to be a pale reflection of the true figures since violence and human rights violations committed against transgender people go unreported in many countries, largely because their identity is not legally recognised and a high level of transphobia exists within criminal justice systems.
Responding to HIV
For many years, we have known that transgender women face an extremely high HIV prevalence rate (around 35% in Latin America compared to 1% in the general adult population). According to Christine Stegling, senior adviser on human rights at the Alliance, “It is widely acknowledged that gender and sexuality are key factors affecting the dynamics of the HIV epidemic. Issues vary across communities and countries, but power imbalances, harmful social norms, violence and marginalisation affect women, men, girls, boys and transgender people across the world, limiting their ability to prevent HIV prevention.”
The horrific acts of violence and violations of human rights described in The Night Is Another Country mean that transgender women do not seek out health services and HIV prevention efforts are derailed. A worldwide study published in The Lancet in December 2012 confirms that “transgender women are a very high burden population for HIV and are in urgent need of prevention, treatment, and care services.”
We need to end the violence now
Last week, as part of a series of events coordinated by the Alliance, Marcela Romero met with key decision makers in Brussels, Geneva, London and Washington DC. She spoke about the persistent discrimination of transgender women in Latin America, and how their most fundamental rights are violated on a daily basis.
Marcela, a transgender woman herself, is clear about what is needed to end the violence: “The international community has an important role to play in addressing the human rights violations we are facing. They need to place human rights at the centre of their political dialogues and negotiations. They must call for an end to impunity for human rights violations and challenge criminal legislation that is being used to prosecute people on the basis of their gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV status.”
The Alliance is committed to advocating for policy change which will promote effective HIV programming and protect the human rights of the people we serve. Right now REDLACTRANS and our 'What’s Preventing Prevention?' campaign is running an appeal to urge Latin American governments to pass gender identity laws to guarantee the rights of transgender citizens.
So, as we approach the very day that is designated to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women – international women’s day - we urge you to read the inspiring stories of transgender women in Uganda, Malaysia and Argentina, to take action as part of our Just Like You campaign, and to remain vigilant and tenacious in our struggle to create inclusive and engaged societies for all.