Washington D.C., March 31st 2020. Today we commemorate the International Transgender Visibility Day, a day to celebrate transgender lives and raise awareness about the discrimination this population faces. On this day, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), wants to give visibility to the issues transgender people face throughout Latin America.
All over the world, racism and other forms of discrimination marginalize and ostracize the trans population. This makes access to health services, education, work, and housing extremely difficult. Unfortunately, States limited disaggregated data on the situation of trans people rendering them invisible from groups targeted for public policies designated to support vulnerable situations, especially in Latin America. Combined, these factors place them in vulnerable situations where they are more susceptible to different illnesses, addictions, and violence.
Violence against the trans community in Latin America
The trans community continues to face severe incidents of violence. For example, Brazil remains the leading country in trans homicides around the world with 127 registered cases, closely followed by Colombia who ranks third, with 21 recorded crimes against this population. According to data collected by the National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals (ANTRA) in Brazil, there was a 90% increase in the first bimester of this year (38) compared to the same period last year (20). According to these statistics, in some countries, to identify as trans is to sign a death sentence.
In Perú, the trans community continues to face large amounts of violence and discrimination. During the 2020 congressional elections, Gahela Cari, the first transgender candidate to run for Congress in Peru, tried to cast her vote when a member of the National Jury of Elections (JNE) refused to recognize her gender identity. Similarly, members of the polling station in Lambayeque harassed Fiorella Mimbela, an LGBTI+ activist, when her legal name and image were spread around social media networks. These are not isolated acts but part of a wider pattern of rejection and violence the Peruvian trans community faces.
In the Dominican Republic, LGBTI organizations have recorded around 48 transgender homicides since 2006. Out of these 48 only 5 have verdicts, demonstrating the trans community not only faces high levels of violence but also faces barriers in access to justice. A more recent case shows that strangers are not always the perpetrators of these heinous acts. Willianny, a trans woman, had both her hair and breasts cut off by her own family members before her funeral, a repudiation of her identity. One LGBT activist, Yimbert Feliz Telemin, commented that “in the Dominican Republic being trans is worse than being a street dog.”
Continual work must be done in order to combat the discrimination and violence against the trans population. Race and Equality calls on all Latin American and Caribbean States to sign and ratify the Inter-American Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance and, for States that have not done so, legally recognize the gender identity of trans and non-binary people in accordance with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion 24-17. Additionally, we remind States that many members of the trans community are sex workers and depend on their profession to survive. We call on States to safeguard their rights and guarantee they will not be the object of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
Much of the discrimination against the trans population is also created from the lack of recognition of their identity. As ANTRA describes it, it is not only the denial of their name, but their identity, “an appropriation by a society that frequently prefers to expose rather than welcome.” Oftentimes, countries such as the Dominican Republic do not allow trans people to legally change their name while other countries place hurdles such as high costs, long bureaucratic processes, or as in Peru, require the process to be through the courts. Having the correct documentation is just the first step of many to demarginalize trans people from different public spaces.
In countries where name recognition is legal, there continue to be issues with the lack of information regarding the process, both in relation to the necessary procedures and what to do in cases of discrimination. In rural areas all these issues are exacerbated. Bruna Benavides from ANTRA in Brazil notes that there is little investment in training or capacity building programs for trans leaders, so that they can provide the necessary assistance for people to complete the rectification of their documents.
collaboration with our partners we also ask for the inclusion of trans people
in all public policies created due to COVID-19, not only at the local and state
level, but also at a federal level, especially those developed to aid
low-income, self-employed, and unemployed people. During this time, the stigma
and discrimination against the trans population has become more visible. We
call on States to guarantee their access to health and put in place protocols
that will ensure they are treated humanely and not discriminated against
because of their gender identity.
 Associação Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais do Brasil (ANTRA); Instituto Brasileiro Trans de educação (IBTE). “Dossiê Assassinatos e violência contra travestis e transexuais no Brasil em 2019”. 2020.
Associação Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais do Brasil (ANTRA); Instituto Brasileiro Trans de educação (IBTE). “Dossiê Assassinatos e violência contra travestis e transexuais no Brasil em 2019”. 2020.
 To date only Uruguay and Mexico have signed and ratified this Convention. Avaiable at: http://www.oas.org/es/sla/ddi/tratados_multilaterales_interamericanos_A-69_discriminacion_intolerancia.asp
 Associação Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais do Brasil (ANTRA); Instituto Brasileiro Trans de educação (IBTE). “Dossiê Assassinatos e violência contra travestis e transexuais no Brasil em 2019” 2020.