The LGBTI community in Honduras had already been facing stigmatization and discrimination before lockdown measures came into force this spring. Over the past ten years, the observatory on violent deaths of LGBTI people, run by LWBC partner Red Lésbica Cattrachas, has reported over 300 assassinations, the majority of which have seen no criminal charges made against suspected perpetrators.
The vulnerability of LGBTI individuals has actually increased since the beginning of the pandemic. The Committee for Sexual Diversity in Honduras explained in a recent press release that the crisis is affecting sexual and gender minorities in a disproportionate way, partly as a result of the systematic exclusion of these groups on both social and economic levels.
LGBTI individuals do not seem to be experiencing the benefits of the social safety net put in place by the Government of Honduras. As they often struggle to find jobs, LGBTI individuals may turn to informal employment, including prostitution and other unstable jobs— this in turn presents an obstacle to accessing many social benefits provided by the government. On the topic of access to healthcare and medication, this was already limited due to the discrimination faced by members of the LGBTI community, yet access has now been even more dramatically restricted in the context of the current public health emergency
The state of emergency declared in Honduras, and the subsequent suspension of rights it entails, has exacerbated the discrimination faced by LGBTI persons. The number of human rights violations committed by members of law enforcement and military forces against LGBTI people has increased considerably since the beginning of the pandemic. The UN has confirmed observations that certain police agencies had been abusing anti-COVID-19 measures to target LGBTI organizations directly.
Gabriela Redondo, Director of the Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, was arrested and intimidated by Honduran police forces while leaving her home to buy groceries. She was detained for several hours, without access to legal counsel. Several LGBTI organizations say her case in not an exception and that other incidents of harassment against LGBTI individuals by law enforcement agents have been reported.
Watch: Qué es ser LGTBI en Honduras, a video (in Spanish) produced by NGO Medicusmundi Bizkaia to explain the challenges LGBTI persons face in Honduras.
The Yogyakarta Principles are a powerful advocacy tool for the LGBTI community in that they set out the human rights obligations States must observe with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. The second of these principles defines discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as:
‘ […] any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on sexual orientation or gender identity which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing equality before the law or the equal protection of the law, or the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms”
To that effect, the Yogyakarta Principles outline that States must, inter alia:
A. Embody the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation, if not yet incorporated therein, including by means of amendment and interpretation, and ensure the effective realisation of these principles;
C. Adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to prohibit and eliminate discrimination in the public and private spheres on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity;
D. Take appropriate measures to secure adequate advancement of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities as may be necessary to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights. Such measures shall not be deemed to be discriminatory;
Since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Honduras, those infected (or sometimes only suspected of being infected) and their families have experienced a wave of heinous acts. Honduras-based LWBC partner Cattrachas is monitoring the ongoing situation. The organization mainly works to protect the rights of the LGBTI community and in so doing, fights every day against the discrimination that marginalized people and communities face. In response to the current situation, Cattrachas has launched an awareness-raising campaign to prevent a potential rise in hate speech and acts committed against those infected with the coronavirus. (Check out the campaign)
In addition to these relentless efforts, Cattrachas is pursuing legal action before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) in the case of Vicky Hernández, a trans woman who was murdered during the coup d’état in 2009. If the court rules in Cattrachas’s favour, the State of Honduras will be held responsible for the femicide of a trans woman. Such a decision would represent a significant precedent and a historic first for the IACtHR. This is certainly a case to be observed over the coming months.