Astraea grantee partners Colombia Diversa, Santamaría Fundación, and Red Lésbica Cattrachas testified before the 146th Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC on November 1st on the violations experienced by LGBTQI people in Colombia, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Colombia Diversa, an LGBTQ organization based in Bogotá, Colombia, requested the IACHR hearing.
At the hearing, speakers representing the three organizations reported on the high homicide rates faced by LGBTQI people in their countries, where citizens already struggle with militarization, civil wars, racism, and life under the rule of authoritarian governments. Between 2006 and 2011, there have been 542 homicides of LGBT people in Colombia and 76 in Honduras. Violence against transgender people in particular is on the rise. Authorities often fail to investigate these crimes, labeling them crimes of passion rather than human rights violations, and they are subsequently frequently left unsolved. When there is a follow up, the investigations are cursory and lack due diligence. The speakers urged the IACHR to push states to refer to the murder of LGBTQI citizens as hate crimes caused by prejudice, homophobia, transphobia, ignorance, and institutionalized discrimination.
Astraeas grantee partners asked the IACHR to produce yearly reports on the situation of LGBTQI people in their countries, to hold further hearings for countries to report on conditions, and to pressure local governments to promote laws that favor LGBTQI equality. Additionally, the speakers requested that IACHR intervene to request that states legitimize LGBTQI civil society organizations, and that chosen family members, rather than or in addition to blood relatives, are able to represent victims of hate crimes.
The organizations present also called attention to the need for more protections to human rights defenders in the region. They reported that in the few cases where they were able to bring hate crime cases to court, the perpetrators of violence remained free and were not held accountable. This creates additional risk for both defenders and LGBTQI community members.
Finally, in response to court judges referring to transgender women with incorrect gender pronouns, the speakers asked the commission to insist government officials receive training in interacting with LGBTQI communities with respect and dignity.
Following are the demands made of the IACHR and of the individual states.
Demands made to the IACHRs Unit for the Rights of LGBTI people:
1. To identify how violence against LGBTI people is institutionalized through social, cultural and political practices and how it makes LGBTI people more vulnerable to homicides. To propose preventive and protective mechanisms to avoid violence against LGBTI people.
2. To identify and name homicides of LGBTI people as crimes based on prejudice and bias and to ask member states to respect and guarantee LGBTI rights and to prevent more homicides.
3. To conduct visits to different countries to be able to report on the situation described in the hearing, including the contexts in which the killings occur and the institutionalized impunity.
4. To include a chapter on the situation of the rights of LGBTI people in the Commissions Annual Report.
5. To include in the Commissions security procedures a criteria to help prioritize the rights of LGBTI people.
6. To establish a mechanism to monitor the situation of the rights of LGBTI people, including periodic reporting requirements for States, regularly convening hearings for organizations and victims to make statements.
7. To include in the prevention criteria, specific protections for LGBTI people for States to implement.
Demands for States:
1. To promote laws that guarantee equality for LGBTI people and to exclude rules that criminalize or discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity or that foster impunity for crimes based on prejudice.
2. To review the social, cultural, and institutional practices and procedures that act as barriers to the legal frameworks that seek to prevent and punish violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, making effective the sanctions related to these practices.
3. As part of the promotion of a culture of respect towards LGBT people, to implement a comprehensive information system that facilitates the coordination and unification of criteria and variables (which take into account the rights and vulnerabilities) in all instances of States to address the under-reporting of cases of violence against LGBTI people, including homicides.
4. To implement an internal, proper and complete training to be able to recognize the diverse sexual and gender identities and their specific vulnerabilities.
5. To create units and specialized research teams that have expertise on LGBTI issues and are able to treat the homicides of LGBTI people and the larger context affecting LGBTI people properly in order to implement appropriate charges to homicide on the grounds of prejudice.
6. To grant legal representation to human rights organizations and chosen family members of victims of homicide, so they can access justice to help end impunity.
7. To adjust their protection mechanisms taking into account the specificities of the various gender and sexual identities. Immediate protection mechanisms are needed.