On 26 October, Wanda Fox, a key transgender female animator of the Alliance programme in Colombia was killed in Bogota in the same area where she lived and worked. Just three days earlier, Katherine, another transgender woman known to the group, was also killed. Both women were apparently murdered by groups that view transgender visibility in the community as a threat. Some paramilitary groups in Colombia list transgender groups as a target of social cleansing.
Wanda was a very active worker of Fundacion Procrear, the Bogota-based implementing organisation of Alliance partner, Liga Sida. She was fundamental in designing the ‘Inclusion Strategy for Transgender Women in a Vulnerable Community’, piloted by Fundacion Procrear and supported by Liga SIDA and the Alliance.
The day she was killed, Wanda had reached 20 new transgender women in an area where many transgender people resort to sex work to provide an income. Through her work she wanted to demonstrate to other marginalised groups in her community, not just transgender people, that it is possible to recover the rights and opportunities that other sectors of society and the state did not recognize.
Wanda in her friends’ words
Here are some of the personal tributes Wanda’s friends have made in her memory, in their own words.
“Her smile has remained in the past and stays in our minds. We cry for her but we will remain in the struggle.”
“If only the individual who dared to kill Wanda Fox had known that she coined the phrase ‘we don’t give ourselves breasts for them to call us sir’ and ‘we want that they stop knowing us for ‘P and P’*. We want opportunities that are not only sex work and as hairdressers.’ She had a gift for words and knew how to provoke the pleasure of laughter with the speed of her tongue in perfect harmony. If he had known that she was an older sister toiling away for her brothers every time they needed it, if this assassin had known that in her exercising her work she was a rare example of a community leader who would not leave behind her role as sex worker to win back her right to free expression in a supposedly democratic country.”
(*P and P’ is a common abbreviation in Spanish, meaning ‘prostitute and hairdresser’.)
More security needed
These horrendous crimes in October in Bogota follow an earlier threat to transgender workers in Cali, the second area where the Alliance programme operates to advocate for the rights of transgender women.
The Alliance Security Review Committee recognises that action urgently needs to be taken to increase security for transgender groups in Colombia. Actions are being drawn up, which will help transgender groups address these issues, not just in Colombia, but for any transgender group living in similar difficult circumstances, and also other groups worldwide that also face violence and discrimination.
The day she died Wanda had reached 20 new transgender women in her community