The risk of paying with your life for being yourself: the incessant LGTBIQ+ struggle in Honduras

Tegucigalpa, the city of the Cerros de Plata —capital of Honduras— has been the scene of the murder of the trans leader, fighter for people with HIV and representative of her neighborhood community Thalia Rodriguez on Monday, January 10, 2022. It is the first crime of the year against a transgender person in this country, considered one of the most dangerous nations for people of the LGTBIQ+ collective.

On the fateful day, people entered the house of Thalía, who was with her partner Walter, on the slopes of the Juana Laínez hill. Both were attacked with firearms. She died, while her companion survived and was taken to a hospital for treatment. Investigations are ongoing and the killers have not yet been identified.

Thalía, 45, was a trans activist recognized for her leadership, support and perseverance in defending the rights of trans women for more than 20 years. In addition, it was an example of overcoming. For more than three decades, he made a grocery store prosper, his own business, for which he fought and which allowed him to leave sex work on the streets.

“We demand that the IACHR ask the State of Honduras to investigate and punish those responsible for the murder of Thalia Rodriguez. His murder cannot go unpunished. They can’t keep killing us,” he said. Cattrachas one of the main LGTBIQ+ organizations in Honduras and America, in this regard.

To the crime of Thalía, during the first days of the new year, was added the murder of another Honduran lesbian, another injustice that is just beginning to be investigated. In this way, the number of deaths continues to grow in Honduras, showing the thorny reality of a country that has been classified as one of the most dangerous areas for people from the LGTBIQ+ collective and where “machismo and homophobia is lethal”, according to a report by the Spanish Cooperation Agency in 2018.

“From 2009 to the present, 402 violent deaths of LGTBI+ people have been recorded. Now, so far this year, 2022, we have barely registered two deaths, of Thalía, and of another lesbian partner, ”says the lawyer. Nadia Mejia representative of Cattrachas, to the Republic.

Honduras, on paper, is a democratic state; however, it does not exercise that concept by maintaining a close and direct relationship with the Church. Religion plays an important role in the politics of the governments of this nation.

“The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church have the power to influence the people because in the eyes of the Honduran they are the two most reliable institutions of the State. This becomes an advantage for politicians (…) to win the votes of Catholic/Christian people in Honduras, which as a percentage is more than 70% of the population,” says a report by the Milenio multimedia platform.

This religious influence has become the main source of aggressor: “In Honduras we have a conservative, sexist society, a society of religious fundamentalist leaders, who, starting from this very religious fundamentalism, is what creates and spreads hate and discrimination against women. LGTBI people”, explains Mejía.

During the speech celebrating the Bicentennial of the Independence of Honduras, in September 2021, President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) made homophobic attacks and ignored rights based on Christian principles.

The president called “enemies of independence” and defenders of “anti-values” the people and organizations that promote the right to decide on the body of women, as well as the rights of sexual diversity.

“According to our Constitution, the principles and values ​​that inspire our society, according to the Magna Carta, are under the protection of the State (…) protecting them against all those dangers such as (same-sex) marriage that some promote. Anti-value concepts, such as gender ideology, which seeks to ignore how God brings a boy and a girl into the world”, mentions Orlando Hernández, referring to the social legislature in favor of the LGTBIQ+ community.

In Honduran lands, legal frameworks restrict the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersex community and more.

The constitutional reform of this country, in 2005, restricted equal marriage. That was not enough for legislators to approve a reform in 2021 that increased the number of votes needed in Congress to change the article that prevents same-sex unions. A shield against freedom.

“By attempting to permanently and totally block any possibility of access to marriage for same-sex couples, the Honduran Congress is consolidating state-sanctioned homophobia. (…) In a country where LGBT people already face high levels of violence and discrimination, this attempt at constitutional reform sends the message that their stigmatization could even worsen,” says Cristian González Cabrera, researcher on LGTBIQ+ rights in the Americas at Human Vigilancia de los derechos.

Nadia Mejía, the aforementioned representative of Cattrachas, adds: “As a result of these reforms, homoparental adoption is not recognized, the intimate visit in the prison system between people of the same sex. There is even a decree or rule from 1999 that is still in force and that prohibits LGBTI people from donating blood because they believe that the sexual practices (which they carry out) are totally dangerous, as if heterosexual people did not carry out this type of practice.”

To this day, the regulations of this nation also do not allow trans people to change their name and to appear in official documents with the gender identity they have chosen.

In addition, the country lacks public social protection policies that allow access to education, health, security and work under equal conditions as the rest of the population.

“In terms of education, trans people cannot access an education that recognizes their gender identity. They are always called by their legal name; they are never told about their assumed name,” protests Mejía.

Hate crimes committed against homosexuals in this country go unpunished, warn various activists, despite the fact that the Penal Code of their nation recognizes a generic aggravating circumstance for discrimination or prejudice based on the sexual orientation, gender identity or expression of the victims.

“Of all the cases that we have registered in Cattrachas, none has been applied that generic aggravation of hatred, prejudice or reason of animosity due to gender identity. Even if they capture the person who murders an LGTBI person, if they do not apply this generic aggravating circumstance, we consider that the case continues in impunity, because they do not recognize that violence due to prejudice”, indicates Nadia.

According to the representative of Cattrachas, of the 402 crimes against the LGTBIQ+ community in Honduras, registered until 2022, “there is almost 91% impunity, where there were only 35 convictions, of which the aforementioned generic aggravating circumstance has not been applied.” .

Faced with this reality, LGTBIQ+ organizations take cases to international courts. In 2021 they managed to have the State of Honduras condemned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) for the case of Vicky Hernández, a transsexual woman murdered during the coup d’état in 2009. More than 10 years had to pass to find some justice , but there are still many victims who are still waiting for reparation.

Within the measures of reparation that the court issued, the State of Honduras is instructed to continue with the investigations of the transfeminicide of Vicky Hernandez and to carry out “a public act of acknowledgment of international responsibility”.

In addition, the Government must implement an educational scholarship for trans women, create a training plan for security forces, adopt a procedure to recognize gender identity in identity documents and in public records, and adopt protocols for monitoring and investigation of cases of violence against LGTBIQ+ people.

Now, the new incoming government of Xiomara Castro, who will take office on January 27, 2022, replacing Juan Orlando Hernández, is expected to comply with the IACHR ruling.

In this regard, Mejía specifies: “The new government does not have to promise us anything in terms of advances in the rights of LGTBI people, because it is not a political promise, it is a state obligation. Cattrachas, as an organization, does not plan to make agreements or agreements. Simply, you have to serve the sentence of Vicky Hernández. The State is obliged to follow up and comply with the operative paragraphs of the judgment.”

“We are not going to let the death of Thalia Rodriguez go unpunished. We are going to continue there harassing until they give us an answer. And, if they don’t give it to us, this will go to all instances, international, if necessary”, concluded Nadia Mejía, from Cattrachas.