Posted by Lucile Scott on December 3, 2013
November 20 marked the 15th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to honor and remember trans victims of homicide and to raise public awareness about hate crimes against the trans community. In the past 12 months, 238 murders of trans individuals were reported to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project (TMM), which monitors these crimes globally. The largest number of murders was reported in Brazil, at 95, followed Mexico, 40, the U.S., 16, then by Honduras and Columbia, which each had 12 reported homicides. In Asia, India had the largest number at 8, and in Europe, both Italy and Turkey had 5 reported cases.
The offices of ASPIDH, a GMT Initiative grantee partner promoting trans rights in El Salvador.
While the highest incidence of these crimes was reported in Latin American countries, the region also claims a strong and active trans rights movement. This has caused many advocates to conclude that the homicides go underreported in many other countries and regions, and that the reported figures are just a fraction of the actual incidence. “This connection shows the need for strong trans communities and organizations, which are capable of professional monitoring and reporting of violence against trans people,” states a release by Transgender Europe.
Ada Melendez, coordinator at LLAVES, a GMT Initiative grantee partner in Honduras.
These trans organizations are not only essential to reporting this violence, but also to advocating for the changes needed to combat it. “The extent of these crimes is based on the lack of involvement of the authorities and the state, which causes public servants to practice acts of stigma and discrimination that contribute to a low level of education across the country on issues of human sexuality, gender, and identity,” says Ada Melendez, a coordinator at LLAVES, a GMT Initiative grantee partner in Honduras. Honduras ranked fourth in the number of reported murders this year, but it had the highest rate per capita. However, this year LLAVES and other groups successfully advocated for Congress to reform the country’s penal code so it now includes legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2012, these advocates achieved another victory when trans individuals were included in the Honduran Special Law on HIV for the first time. Trans individuals are not only subjected to violence, they are also often discriminated against in employment and education settings, which puts them at a higher risk of engaging in HIV risk behavior. “The failure to obtain decent work can lead to working the sex trade by necessity, which leads to unhealthy practices of risk,” says Melendez.
However, despite this progress, Melendez says that the trans rights movement still has many legal and cultural barriers to equal rights to overcome. For instance, most trans women still cannot access HIV care and other medical care that addresses their needs. Additionally, he reports that the Opus Dei church in Honduras is currently sponsoring a television campaign and a legal effort to repeal the change to the penal code. “We live in a system of sexism and patriarchy that creates violence against the feminized man,” says Melendez. “Trans people need spaces where they can be cared for, understood, and finally accepted.”