Murders highlight increasing violence against trans people in Honduras

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A leading human rights group has claimed that the murder of a trans activist in Honduras is part of a series of violent attacks on the community.

New-York based Human Rights Watch called on the authorities in the central American nation to fully investigate the murder of Cynthia Nicole.

HRW said her murder on January 9th was the latest attack on the trans community.

On October 30th, an attacker killed Yasmin, a transgender sex worker and colleague of Nicole.

The next day an attacker shot Bibi, another transgender sex worker, while she was working in the Obelisco, a park in the centre of Comayaguela.

On December 17th, an attacker stabbed Noelia, a third transgender sex worker, 14 times.

In addition to these attacks, on December 20th, members of the police assaulted a transgender activist doing HIV/AIDS outreach work in Tegucigalpa.

Transgender activists claim that in other cases police and judiciary have not taken effective steps to find those responsible.

Unknown assailants murdered Nicole, 32, in the early hours of January 9th.

According to testimonies by other rights activists, three unknown men in a blue car shot Nicole in a drive-by shooting in Barrio Guaserique in Comayaguela, a town just outside the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

The transgender rights activist received three shots in the chest and one in the head.

“Cynthia Nicole fought tirelessly to secure basic rights protections for transgender sex workers,” said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher with the LGBT Rights Programme at Human Rights Watch.

“The authorities need to find and prosecute the perpetrators of this and previous attacks against the trans community.

“If authorities fail to investigate attacks, victims have no reason to report them – and are ready targets for reprisals.”

As a leader in Colectivo Violeta – an organisation working to defend the rights and health of trans people – Ms Nicole had a long record of outreach work on rights with transgender sex workers in Tegucigalpa.

She provided information about HIV/AIDS and human rights, and represented her community at various national conferences and before the media.

“The transgender community is terrified,” said Indyra Mendoza, director of the Honduran lesbian and feminist group Cattrachas.

“But these attacks will not silence the community in Honduras, and we will continue to work to ensure that the rights of transgender people are recognised and protected.”

In March 2008 the US State Department said of Honduras:

“There are no discriminatory laws based on sexual orientation, but in practice social discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation was widespread.

“Representatives of sexual diversity rights NGOs asserted that their members were killed, beaten, and subjected to other mistreatment by security authorities.

“In cases where lesbians, gays, and transgender persons were found dead, the prosecutor often encountered serious difficulties because the victims had either concealed their identity or sexual orientation or, in many cases, were hiding from their families.

“Criminal investigations were categorised by female or male gender but did not recognize a “transgender person” category.

“Sexual diversity rights groups asserted that security forces, government agencies, and private employers engaged in anti-gay discriminatory hiring practices.

“These groups also reported intimidation, fear of reprisal, and police corruption made gay and lesbian victims of abuse reluctant to file charges or proceed with prosecutions.

“The government required, as a condition for legal registration, sexual diversity rights organizations to remove any reference in their bylaws to promotion of respect for the rights of gay, lesbian, or transgender persons.

“In March the secretary general of the Ministry of Governance and Justice commented publicly that the government denied registration to gay rights advocacy NGOs because their stated purposes did not comport with “good custom.”

“The sexual diversity rights organisation the Lesbian-Gay Rainbow Association of Comayaguela reported that between January and March, seven homosexuals were killed due to their sexuality by unknown actors and that a number of gay persons had fled the country out of fear of social and security force persecution.

“On March 18, police beat and detained Donny Reyes, the treasurer of the Lesbian-Gay Rainbow Association of Comayaguela.

“Police then reportedly put Reyes in a jail cell with 57 gang members who raped and beat him. Reyes filed a formal complaint and was subsequently harassed by police.”