María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
Washington, D.C. - On this year’s Trans Day of Visibility, March 31, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) joins with the international community in highlighting the valuable role trans people play in championing their rights, combating cissexism, and promoting inclusion in public life and spheres of power. The IACHR applauds the leadership shown by some trans individuals and the hard work they do in the region, and urges the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to adopt urgent measures to mainstream a gender identity approach into public policies that seek to break the cycles of poverty, exclusion, violence, and criminalization that affect trans people in the Americas. This includes, among other things, measures to recognize gender identity in a simple, expedited way that does not pathologize the person, as well as measures to protect conduct associated with the expression of gender identity, which should extend to the various aspects of a person’s life, in areas such as education, health, work, and housing.
The Inter-American Commission is pleased to observe that in recent years there has been a growing presence of trans people in the public sphere; such is the case with important trans role models and activists in the region, as well as—though fewer in number—trans individuals holding public positions or elective office. The IACHR underscores that it is important for States in the region to adopt domestic policies that ensure the inclusion of trans people in the formal labor market, and create opportunities for democratic engagement and dialogue that allow trans people to have truly equal access to public positions and elective office. In that regard, the IACHR welcomes initiatives promoted by some States in the region to set aside quotas for trans persons in public positions. The Commission urges other OAS Member States to replicate and expand such initiatives, ensuring that there are also comprehensive public policies in place to enable, among other things, technical training of trans individuals so that they can in fact access these positions, continue to develop job skills, and hold positions of power and decision-making.
Despite some advances and a growing presence of trans people in the public sphere, the IACHR notes with concern that this presence remains very low and responds to special circumstances. The Commission notes that the widespread conditions of violence, discrimination, and exclusion faced by trans people in the Americas—exacerbated by entrenched cisnormative patterns in societies in the region—tend to prevent them from having access to or completing different levels of education; this has a negative impact on their quality of life and relegates them to cycles of poverty and exclusion that makes them more vulnerable to violence. All of this compromises effective access to rights such as the right to health, work, and housing, as well as trans people’s access to public spheres and their participation as public actors.
In its 2015 report Violence against LGBTI Persons, the IACHR stated that “pervasive violence, prejudice, and discrimination in society at large and within the family hinder [trans persons’] possibilities to access education, health care services, safe shelters, and the formal labor market.” Meanwhile, in its 2016 preliminary report on Poverty, Extreme Poverty, and Human Rights in the Americas, the Commission said that “in order to fully include trans persons into different spheres of life and reduce the levels of poverty that afflict them, the IACHR considers it necessary to redouble efforts and move beyond the formal adoption of laws that recognize gender identity, and to engage in the design and implementation of public policies that complement the laws, take into account the needs and different realities encountered by trans persons, and are designed to narrow the gaps of inequalities they face, which in some cases, go beyond the scope of a gender identity law.”
For his part, the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons, Commissioner and IACHR President Francisco Eguiguren Praeli, noted that “respect for and full recognition of the human rights of trans persons in the Americas will not be attained until efforts to assert rights go beyond the formal sphere and become guarantees in practice that are adapted to the different realities trans persons encounter in the region, that allow them to fully develop their potential and exercise their rights in accordance with their gender identity, and that do not hinder them from holding positions in the formal labor market, including positions of power in public spheres.” He added, “The States of the region have a commitment to adjust their legal frameworks so that we have an Americas that leaves cisnormativity behind and provides equal opportunities for everyone.”
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.