democraciaAbierta

#50YearsOfStonewall: attacks against the LGBT+ community in Latin America continue

The LGBT+ in Latin America not only have to deal with violent discrimination but also ignorance from the authorities who often confuse the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity. Español

DemocraciaAbierta
19 June 2019
Pride parade Mexico City 2016. Wikimedia Commons.

Despite recent advances such as the legal recognition of equal marriage in Ecuador and Federal Court sentence in Brazil recognising homophobia as a crime equivalent to other types of discrimination like racism, there are still far too many cases of homophobia in Latin America.

This Pride Month, which will celebrate 50 years since the Stonewall riots that marked the beginning of the fight for LGBT+ freedom, people will take to the streets in celebration of the freedoms gained so far, but also in reflection of the dificulties that remain, especially in Latin America.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, many countries in Latin America have passed laws that allow equal marriage, adoption by LGBT+ couples, and the criminalisation of discrimination. However, an investigation by Transgender Europe shows that violence towards the community in Latin America is higher in the region than it is in Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.

The LGBT+ in Latin America not only have to deal with violent discrimination but also ignorance from the authorities who often confuse the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Few countries in the region allow trans people to change their gender and the new wave of conservative evangelism has ensured that homophobic discourse, often bordering on violent homophobic discourse, is more common than ever.

That’s why we will explore LGBT+phobia in Latin America and what you need to know to understand the current scenario.

Murders of LGBT+ people in the region

Latin America is the most lethal region for the LGBT+ community in the world, and Brasil the most lethal country. In 2017, 445 murders were registered, and Brazil also leads the world rankings for countries in which most trans people are murdered.

Authorities often blinded by their own homophobia have difficulties in recognising murders of LGBT+ victims of hate crimes and discrimination.

Bolsonaro declared during his presidential campaign that he would rather a dead son to a gay son, and he recently stated that he will do everything he can so that Brazil doesn’t become a gay tourism destination, particularly worrying statements given the prevalence of violence towards the community in the South American nation.

After Brazil, Mexico is the second most deadly country for the LGBT+ community with approximately 76 murders per year according to a report by the NGO Letra S. For trans people the situation is also troubling in Mexico with 209 murders between 2013 and 2017, an average of 40 per year.

In Colombia there were 109 murders of LGBT+ people reported in 2017. According to a report by the NGO Colombia Diversa, the large majority of these murders were carried out due to discrimination, and this context of violence worsens in the current political context.

There have been many difficulties in complying with many of the promises of the peace agreements and fighting between criminal groups, paramilitaries, and guerrilleros continues across the country, meaning many more LGBT+ people are targeted as a result.

However, these are only the reported murders and the reality is there are many more. Authorities often blinded by their own homophobia have difficulties in recognising murders of LGBT+ victims of hate crimes and discrimination.

In many Latin American countries, laws prohibit a change in gender which makes it difficult for institutions to recognise when a victim is trans.

Additionally, the lack of recognition of homophobia as a hate crime in other cases makes it complicated to keep a record of those who fall victim for discriminatory motives.

Challenges for the trans community

According to information published by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights in March 2018, the life expectancy of a trans person in the Americas is only 35 years on average, due to the precarious conditions they experience throughout their lives in the region.

Of the 2115 murders of trans people around the world between 2008 and 2016 documented by the NGO Transgender Europe, 1654 of those occurred in Latin America.

The figures show that trans people are the most vulnerable to falling victim to murder than any other group within the LGBT+ community.

Of the 2115 murders of trans people around the world between 2008 and 2016 documented by the NGO Transgender Europe, 1654 of those occurred in Latin America.

Trans people from a young age experience exclusion and a lack of medical asssistance. The treatments and operations required to transition from one gender to another are not included within national health plans in the large majority of countries.

Only three countries in the region, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia, have gender identity laws and 48% of the region completely prohibits any change of gender for trans people.

Additionally, due to the discrimination suffered, it can be very difficult for trans people to find a job in the formal labour market to survive and finance their transitions, therefore many end up in the world of prostitution.

According to Daniela Ruíz, a trans activist and actress, “for many years we’ve been stigmatised and limited only to prostitution”. For trans people, “prostitution is not a choice, it is an undesirable consequence.”

Ruíz herself undertook sex work when she left home at 18 years old due to rejection from her family. Without economic support and in the context of widespread discrimination, she was thrown into prison, was raped, and suffered countless abuses from the authorities.

Unfortunately this is a familiar story for many trans people throughout the region, a community that suffer from a discrimination that all too often ends their lives.

50 years after Stonewall is a time for reflection, and now it is time to truly recognise that although we have come a long way, the fight continues existing for a reason.

Unete a nuestro boletín ¿Qué pasa con la democracia, la participación y derechos humanos en Latinoamérica? Entérate a través de nuestro boletín semanal. Suscríbeme al boletín.

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