In January I wrote (link here) about the murder of the Honduran trans rights activist Cynthia Nicole, and the Human Rights Watch’s call for a full investigation of her death. Now, ahead of next month’s General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Honduras, HRW have published a comprehensive report, “Not Worth a Penny”, which makes specific recommendations aimed at ending the abuse of trans people by police. The report is available for download from here.
The theme of the OAS Assembly is “Toward a Culture of Non-Violence” and a proposed draft resolution will be discussed in which:
the states declare their commitment “to promote, within a framework of the rule of law, a culture of peace and non-violence” and specifically note “the importance of adopting measures necessary to prevent, impede, and punish violence … against women, and groups in vulnerable situations.”
While Honduran authorities have been prompt in signing international agreements pledging to curb violence and protect vulnerable groups, attacks on transgender people—often targeted because their looks and demeanor challenge prevailing sex-role stereotypes—continue to be commonplace in the country.
Nearly every transgender person Human Rights Watch interviewed during research in Honduras in late 2008 and early 2009 spoke of harassment, beatings, and ill treatment at the hands of police. And bias-motivated attacks on transgender individuals by private actors are endemic. At least 17 travestis have been killed in public places in Honduras since 2004; many more have been beaten, stabbed, or shot.
Transgender people also spoke of police inaction and failure to investigate cases that they have registered with the police.
Honduran law is a major contributor to these problems by nature of its imprecise wording, which leaves it open to arbitrary interpretation and enforcement by the police. As a consequence, the law is used to justify harassment and detention of trans people for no reason. In addition:
Another factor contributing to ongoing violence against transgender people is impunity. Inefficiency and ineffectiveness in police investigations runs like a thread through all Honduran criminal investigations but they are a particular problem in cases involving violence against transgender people. We are aware of no successful prosecutions of police accused of violence against transgender people over the past five years in Honduras. No one has been prosecuted for any of the 17 murders of transgender people.
When cases are not properly investigated and perpetrators are not adequately punished, the government sends a message to society that it condones violence. It also sends a message to victims that initiating complaints will not result in convictions and redress. State inaction in response to attacks on transgender people in Honduras feeds the violence, and encourages discrimination against them by state and non-state actors.
HRW is calling on Honduras to implement these three key recommendations:
- Honduras should end violence against transgender people by law enforcement officers and ensure investigations and prosecutions of state and non-state perpetrators of violence against transgender people.
- Honduras should ensure full respect for and protection of the human rights of transgender people in police stations when they are arrested.
- Honduras should enact legislation that provides specific protections on the grounds of sexual orientation, and gender identity and gender expression.
Previous related posts:
- Honduran trans rights activist murdered (January 13, 2009)