In 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a landmark report on the abuses and human rights violations faced by members of the LGBTQ population in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report focused on the pervasiveness of direct prejudice-based violence perpetrated by state, state-sponsored, and non-state actors, as well as on ongoing indirect violence caused by laws that criminalize same-sex relationships and “nonnormative” gender identities. At the time, eleven countries in the region still had such laws, which the report noted were partly responsible for the recurring violence against LGBTQ populations.
According to the report, between 2013 and 2015, almost 800 LGBTQ persons were victims of direct violence in 25 Latin American countries. This figure, while alarming, represented just the tip of the iceberg as crime against LGBTQ populations is normally underreported.
Half a decade the later, the situation is still dire. Since the publication of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report in 2015, at least 1,300 LGBTQ persons have been murdered in the region.
Central America has been particularly affected by this type of violence, with Honduras and El Salvador having the highest rate of homicide of LGBTQ persons. Both part of the Northern Triangle, these two countries have long suffered from alarming levels of criminality and violence. While these phenomena have touched all levels and sectors of society, LGBTQ populations, particularly transgender women, have faced additional risks and threats linked to prejudice and stigma from both government institutions and the society at large.
These abuses have taken place in a climate of widespread impunity and prejudice, both of which have permeated most state institutions, particularly the justice system. Law enforcement authorities have both systematically ignored crimes against LGBTQ populations and have failed to effectively identify, bring to trial, and sentence the perpetrators.
With the firm belief that LGBTQ rights are human rights, Partners El Salvador and PartnersGlobal have been working with the Federation of LGBTQ Organizations in El Salvador to better advocate for the recognition and protection of their rights. We have worked hand in hand with the Federation to establish long-lasting partnerships with other vulnerable populations and sectors and jointly push for transformational changes at the institutional and societal level. Our joint work has resulted in a common legislative and policy agenda subscribed to by organizations representing not only LGBTQ populations, but also persons with disabilities, youth, and women victims of violence.
On this Human Rights Day, and as the crisis of insecurity and violence deepens in the region and the political space in these countries closes—a trend we are seeing in other regions of the world as well—it is of utmost importance to continue to fight for the consolidation of LGBTQ rights as human rights, support LGBTQ organizations and groups to become strong and credible actors, and foster deeper intersectoral alliances that can contribute to this goal. Only by working together and building broader and stronger constituencies for human rights will we be able to continue moving forward.
Luis Gomez Chow is the Director for Latin America and the Caribbean and Global Advisory Services at PartnersGlobal. He oversees Partners’ Civil Society Resilience portfolio as well as the organization’s peacebuilding and democracy-building programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. He has a decade of experience designing, implementing, and evaluating multi-stakeholder dialogue, negotiation, and consensus-building processes and platforms concerning human rights, access to justice, and human security policies and laws.