Central American gay activists suffer institutionalised hate

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Defenders of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Honduras and Guatemala are being subjected to state-sponsored harassment, death threats and other attacks.

The attitude that they are often met with is that they ‘get what they deserve.’

Although homosexuality is legal in both countries, a new report from Amnesty International has revealed a catalogue of injustices.

The abuse is widespread and shows no signs of improvement, say the human rights charity.

Activists representing a range of marginalised civil society groups, from indigenous peoples to members of the LGBT community and women’s groups, are targeted by police and the security services in Honduras and Guatemala.

Amnesty documented attacks and threats against human rights defenders working to promote and protect a wide range of rights.

The report highlights case studies of activists being murdered, intimidated, their offices ransacked for evidence and destroyed.

Donny Reyes, treasurer of LGBT organisation, Rainbow Association (Asociación Arcoiris) in Honduras, was arbitrarily detained on 18th March 2007.

He was reportedly stopped by six police officers as he left the Rainbow Association offices in Tegucigalpa and asked to show his identity documents.

Although he did so, the police reportedly beat him and physically forced him into the car and took him to the Comayagüela police station.

The officer who put him in the cell is alleged to have told other inmates: “Look, I’m bringing you a little princess, you know what to do.”

Donny Reyes told Amnesty International that the other detainees took this as a signal to beat him and rape him repeatedly.

He was released after six and a half hours when he agreed to pay 200 lempiras (approximately £7).

Three days later, he reported what had happened to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and to a senior police officer.

He underwent forensic examinations to record the injuries he had suffered.

However, investigations into the arbitrary detention and the subsequent attack have not gone any further.

The Rainbow Association set up in 2003, provides training for human rights defenders on issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV/AIDS prevention.

It has been subject to a pattern of intimidation and attacks.

For example, on 12th June and 1st July 2006 the Association’s offices were raided by police who confiscated documents and destroyed computers and furniture.

In December 2006, the then Director of the Association, José Richard Figueroa, was forced to leave Honduras for his own safety.

In May 2007, the Association moved premises because members felt intimidated by the persistent presence of police patrol cars outside their offices.

They have fought to place these issues on national and international human rights agenda and while their work is being recognised by the UN, the state has failed to provide consistent or useful support or protection.

The Amnesty report concludes:

“The governments of Guatemala and Honduras have ostensibly committed themselves to social reform and poverty reduction, yet this report shows that major allies in the struggle to improve human dignity and alleviate suffering continue to face danger due to a lack of government will to recognize important human rights work.

“The governments of Guatemala and Honduras need to stop treating members of the human rights community, especially those from poorer, more marginalised areas, as enemies and instead engage with them in serious debate about both their work and their protection needs to prevent further killings and attacks.

“Advancing human rights is a mutual endeavour between state and civil society, not an opposing one.”