In just a single day, three trans people were brutally murdered in Colombia

Three headshots of Maní, La Divaza and Cristina Cantillo

In a single day in Colombia, three trans and non-binary people were brutally slain, capturing the “systematic” violence the community knows all too well.

Maní, a sex worker, was stabbed to death in Bogotá, the country’s capital city, on Tuesday (7 December) the national news outlet El Colombiano reported.

La Divaza, a homeless non-binary person, was stabbed in the chest to death in Riohacha, La Guajira after a scuffle curdled into violence, according to El Tiempo. Local activists have called on prosecutors to consider the attack a hate crime.

Christina Cantillo Martínez, a veteran LGBT+ rights activist, was shot in Santa Marta, Magdalena, while talking to her family members on the terrace outside her home, advocates said.

In Colombia, ‘systematic’ anti-trans violence soars

Her two killers drove through the Ondas del Caribe neighbourhood where Martínez lived and brazenly opened fire on her as her horrified family looked on.

Martínez has lived much of the past year in fear. A trans community leader, she suffered two attacks involving a firearm in 2020 alone.

The National Protection Unit, a police agency that protects hundreds of activists, journalists and politicians under threat, had assigned her daytime security.

“This is systematic,” Matilda González, a lawyer for the Trans Community Network of Colombia, a trans community group led by trans women, told El Colombiano.

She added that, for trans people working jobs with heightened risks and little to no safety net from the state, such as sex work, this only compounds the discrimination they face.

It is often left to grassroots LGBT+ advocacy groups such as the Trans Community Network of Colombia, González said, to help trans victims of violence to enlist help from the authorities.

With the deaths of Maní, La Divaza and Martínez, at least 35 trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming people have been slain this year alone in Colombia, according to monitoring groups.

SinViolencia LGBTI, a regional information system, found that between 2014 and 2019, some 500 trans women were killed in Latin America.

Overall, 2021 will be the deadliest year for fatal violence against trans people since global record-keeping began, data compiled by the Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvTW), a Transgender Europe project, showed.