Press Release

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the IACHR Expresses Concern About the Situation of Trans Persons in the Americas

November 21, 2014

Washington, D.C. - Marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) joins the international trans community in honoring the memory of trans persons who have lost their lives and urges OAS Member States to adopt urgent and effective measures to prevent and address violence based on real or perceived gender identity and gender expression that defy social gender norms. Despite some progress in the region in terms of legislation and policy, the situation of trans persons remains a major challenge all across it.

The Commission continues to be concerned by the troubling information received regarding disturbing levels of violence and brutal attacks perpetrated against trans persons. For example, in a period of 15 months, from January 2013 until March 2014, the Commission received information on at least 282 killings of trans persons in the region and at least 67 serious acts of violence apparently related to their gender identity and/or expression. Furthermore, the IACHR is particularly concerned due to the young age of trans victims: 80% of the killings registered were of trans persons who were 35 years old or younger. The IACHR has received information that the life expectancy of trans women in the Americas is between 30 and 35 years of age. Violence against trans persons, particularly trans women, is the result of a combination of factors: exclusion, discrimination and violence within the family, schools, and society at large; lack of recognition of their gender identity; high criminalization of trans women and linkage with working conditions that puts them at a higher risk for violence.

Additionally, the IACHR is concerned about information it has received on instances of police abuse against trans persons throughout the Americas, such as torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and verbal and physical attacks. The Commission has received information that trans women are reluctant to report cases because they fear retaliation and discrimination from the police and law enforcement agents. Also, the IACHR is concerned about information pointing to the lack of investigation in cases of police abuse that are reported. Alleged instances of direct involvement of members of security forces in acts of violence and discrimination sends a social message to society at large that harming gender non-conforming persons is accepted and tolerated.

In October 2014, the IACHR held a hearing on the situation of trans persons in the Americas and participants underscored the lack of attention given to the situation of trans men and trans youth. Furthermore, the Commission notes with concern the difficulties and obstacles trans persons face in travelling and exercising their right to freedom of movement.  This is due to several factors, including that they are unable to obtain legal recognition and the documentation that reflects their gender, as well as the criminalization of trans persons who are severely discriminated against by public officials. Moreover, trans leaders are often seen as delinquent individuals instead of being recognized as human rights defenders.

In this trend, due to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and the lack of recognition of their gender identity, trans persons are subjected to a situation of exclusion and marginalization in all aspects of public life which puts their right to a dignified life at stake. On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, the IACHR urges OAS States not only to prevent the violation of the right to life of trans persons, but also to ensure that they are able to exercise their right to life with dignity. The IACHR urges States to take appropriate measures in all spheres of public intervention, such as health, education and employment, in order to ensure the full enjoyment and exercise of the human rights of trans persons, without discrimination, through the adoption of legislation and public policy to that effect.

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.

No. 138/14