William Alejandro Martínez, a trans man from Honduras, stood up for his rights when military police officers stopped him in Comayagüela in May 2019 and asked to see his identity card. They questioned him about his gender identity, physically assaulted him, and threatened to arrest him. “Don’t touch me, I’m a human rights defender,” Martínez insisted. That’s when an officer pointed a rifle at him, saying “I don’t give a damn what you are.” “My life passed before my eyes,” Martínez remembered.
By some counts, Honduras has one of the world’s highest rates of homicides of transgender people.
Ten years before Martínez stared into the barrel of a gun, Vicky Hernández, a trans woman, sex worker, and activist, was killed on the streets of San Pedro Sula. Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard a case arguing that the Honduran government is responsible for Hernández’s loss of life.
The petitioners acting for the deceased, Cattrachas Lesbian Network and RFK Human Rights, argue the government bore direct responsibility for Hernández’s death, and that in failing to conduct an effective investigation into her killing, including whether it was motivated by anti-LGBT prejudice, Honduras violated her right to life under the American Convention on Human Rights.
The case reached the Inter-American Court because Honduras failed to comply with recommendations the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued in 2018. These included establishing a rights-respecting process to secure legal recognition for trans people’s gender identity, mapping violence against LGBT people and introducing a comprehensive policy to address its structural causes, and training security forces on anti-LGBT violence.
Human Rights Watch made similar recommendations in a report published today, part of our work on anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in Central America’s Northern Triangle. The report found that the Honduran government has failed to effectively address violence and entrenched discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, leading many to seek asylum in the US. In some cases, security officers themselves are perpetrators of violence.
After William Martínez survived a second assault by military police in June 2019, he fled the country. Exile should not be the only way to escape violence. Honduras should take urgent steps to protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination.