Washington DC, October 19, 2021.- The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), in conjunction with the delegations of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, organized a promotional visit with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
The visits took place between October 11 and 16, the Independent Expert (IE SOGI) had the opportunity to meet with activists and LGBTI + groups from each country. In each “Listening Visit” — as the IE SOGI called them — he actively listened and dialogued with representatives and members of organizations that promote and defend the human rights of LGBTI + people, this contributed to strengthening the links between civil society and his Mandate.
The meetings were held in Tegucigalpa (Honduras), San Salvador (El Salvador) and Guatemala City (Guatemala). In total, around 35 organizations attended the meetings, and more than 100 activists from the LGBTI + community participated, including people who attended a public event in the Honduran capital, where the IE SOGI presented his latest report on gender identity, entitled, The Law of Inclusion & Practices of Exclusion.
In Honduras, Madrigal-Borloz listened to organizations that expressed concerns around the criminalization of LGBTI + people, particularly in the electoral context that the country is experiencing before the general elections scheduled for November 28. They noted that both the candidates and President Juan Orlando Hernández continue to spread hate speech which contributes to an increase in violence against LGBTI + people. This is aggravated, they said, by the multiple barriers that this community faces in access to justice, starting with discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Honduran civil society also described the various efforts that have been made to introduce a draft Gender Identity Law to the National Assembly, but to date have not been able to discuss it in Parliament. In this regard, they referred to the lack of guarantees for trans persons to have access to work, education and health, and in cases where they have had access to these spaces, they have been victims of expulsion and ill-treatment, especially in the area of health where staff are not trained and therefore engage in stereotypes and discriminatory practices.
The LGBTI+ population in El Salvador confronts a similar situation, where in May -after a new National Assembly was installed with a resounding majority of President Nayib Bukele’s party -the National Assembly archived a draft Gender Identity Law that had been introduced in March 2018. While organizations noted a decrease in official homicide figures, they were concerned about the increase in the number of missing persons. Likewise, lesbian women organizations highlighted that the fear of identifying as a lesbian woman due to the discrimination and violence they face prevails among this community.
The organizations also raised concerns regarding the persecution of trans women who are sex workers, and the lack of attention and protection of the State in the face of hate crimes suffered by LGBTI+ people in El Salvador. This, they said, is affecting the internal displacement and migration of this population, for which the spaces for participation and denunciation are increasingly closed. The Independent Expert also had the opportunity to meet with academic organizations and institutions who engage in data collection and legal and humanitarian assistance. In that regard, the importance of carrying out such work from a differential and intersectional perspective was highlighted.
In Guatemala, the organizations expressed concern about the NGO Law, because it implies limitations and threats to organizations that promote and defend human rights, and by the initiative of Law 5940 or Law to guarantee the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents against disorders of gender identity, because it proposes to remove the right to self-determination of gender identity of children and trans adolescents. This bill adds to the proposed Law 5272 or Law on the Protection of Life and the Family, which is also of great concern to civil society because it criminalizes abortion and uses retrograde and stigmatizing ideas to support the concept of cis-heteronormative families.
Activists were also able to share information on discrimination in the field of employment and education. They highlighted that transgender people are expelled from schools for making their gender identity visible and are constantly facing bullying. In addition, a large part of the transmasculine population cannot access employment because of their gender expression.
They also referred to the invisibility of lesbian and bisexual women, which means that crimes against this population are not reflected in official statistics or are categorized as crimes against heterosexual women. They also indicated that this group faces many barriers to accessing health because many do not feel comfortable going to a gynecologist and exposing their sexual life.
Race and Equality accompanied each of these meetings and will continue to support the work of the Independent Expert. In addition, Race and Equality is committed to continue working with civil society in these countries to make their struggles visible. We thank all civil society organizations, the delegations of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and all those who made this visit possible.