(c) Aldo Fernandez /REDLACTRANS/Alliance (c) Monica Leonardo fro REDLACTRANS

Refusing to be ignored (Latin America)


Aids Alliance
Transgender women take their message to global leaders, in their fight to stop human rights abuses.

In 2012 the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender People (REDLACTRANS) and the Alliance published The Night is Another Country.  This report revealed how a shocking trend of systematic targeting of transgender women is going uninvestigated in Latin American countries†.


Activists who are outspoken on human rights are a particular target and the risk they face increases exponentially if they also engage in sex work. Ninety per cent of the examples of violence relate to sex work. The case of the Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa de Honduras speaks volumes – of the seven members who set up the rights-based group in 2001, six have been murdered.

All too often perpetrators are the very authorities who should be protecting citizens. The report concludes that the police take advantage of ambiguous legislation to criminalise and take reprisals against transgender activists.


“If we didn’t have to go out on the street at night, if we had education and job opportunities, it would be another story,” transgender activist, Honduras.

Marginalising transgender women dissuades them from seeking health services and derails HIV prevention efforts. Transgender women in Latin America face an extremely high HIV prevalence rate of 35%, compared with a rate of less than 1% in the general population. As one transgender activist in Honduras puts it: “It’s impossible to be an HIV activist without being a human rights activist… for me it’s the same thing”.


The report calls for the arrests and trials of those responsible for murders and other human rights violations; legal recognition of gender identity;  comprehensive health services for the transgender community; and for prisons and healthcare to accommodate transgender women in facilities intended for women (instead of with men) and protect them from abuse.


Over the last few years the member organisations of REDLACTRANS have contributed to historical achievements, including Argentina's Gender Identity Law, which was passed in May 2012. This law, the first of its kind in Latin America, allows a person to reassign their name and gender without having to seek approval from doctors or judges or undergo surgery first.

In 2013 the Alliance supported REDLACTRANS to launch The Night is Another Country at a series of events in Brussels, Geneva, London and Washington DC. “The international community has an important role to play,” says Marcela Romero. “They need to place human rights at the centre of their political dialogues and negotiations… and challenge criminal legislation that is being used to prosecute people on the basis of their gender identity.”

† In March 2012, the Trans Murder monitoring project reported more than 800 murders of transgender people worldwide, the majority in Latin America, and the majority met with impunity. Due to the lack of identity recognition and reporting this is likely to be a pale reflection of the true figures.

This case study is an example of how we help form engaged, inclusive societies, which is response 3 of our 2010-12 strategy, HIV and Healthy Communities. Find out more about our impact in our 2012 Annual Review: Ambition and Acceleration.

More info: View a photo gallery of our work in Latin America here, and photos from our global work on HIV and human rights here.