Social Issues

Trans trauma shakes Latin America: hate crime, stigma and impunity

Buenos Aires/Mexico City/Sao Paulo, Jun 29 (EFE).- With hundreds of unprosecuted hate crimes and endemic discrimination, Latin America continues to lag in LGBT rights among rampant violence against the trans community.

The average life expectancy of trans women in Latin America is only 35 years, according to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The “violence, poverty and alienation” makes trans people especially vulnerable due to gender inequality, while additional uneven relations of power “alarmingly reduce the life expectancy of trans women,” said the 2018 report.

Brazil is where more trans people are killed in the world, with at least 175 trans women killed in 2020 only, virtually a murder every two days, accoring to the National Association of Travestites and Transexuals (Antra) of Brazil.

The record breaking figures of 2020 build on a yearly growing trend.

A key contributing factor is the normalization of violence, nurtured by “the hate speech spouted daily by president Jair Bolsonaro,” says Antra president Keila Simpson.

But as much to blame is judicial neglect towards the prosecution of hate crimes, as investigations are rarely carried out or given due importance, she added.

“Brazil has become no man’s land, because on paper we have the laws, but they never get to those who really need them, so violence continues to grow.”

Excluded by prejudice and unchecked aggressions, about 90% of trans women rely on prostitution as a means of survival, according to Antra.

Suicide rates in the trans community are also increasing every year: 15 suicides in 2019 and 23 in 2020.

In Mexico, despite remarkable legal progress, homophobic and transphobic violence is relentless.

“The situation of trans women in Mexico is worrying. There is discrimination and exclusion, no adequate visibility and historic debt,” says Kenya Cuevas, who runs the NGO Home of the Tiresias Dolls, which offers shelter to trans people.

Cuevas is mourning for Kaory Cantarero at the 28-year-old Honduran’s funeral wake, whose death is a reflection of the social and government abandonment faced by the trans community in Mexico.

She was HIV positive, homeless, and had turned to sex work for survival.

According to the Letter S organization, 79 hate crime murders targeted the LGBT community in 2020. Over half of the victims were trans women.

In Argentina, trans people enjoy legal equality and a large amount of rights, but remain the most persecuted group within the LGBT community.

Equal rights by law is yet to translate into real equality, argues Flavia Massenzio, president of the Argentine LGBT Federation.

“There is still a gender gap, one for the LGBT community at large, but an even more ruthless one with trans people in particular,” says Massenzio.

According to the Observatory on Hate Crime against sexual diversity, 2020 saw 152 hate-induced attacks against the LGBT community in Argentina, some 127 of which victimized trans women.

A total of 56 trans women have been murdered in the South American nation in the past five years, accounting for 76% of all violent murders in the LGBT community. EFE

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