Press Release

On the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, IACHR urges States to increase the life expectancy of trans persons in the Americas

November 20, 2015

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Washington D.C. – On the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) joins the international community to honor the memory of trans persons who lost their lives and urges Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to improve data collection systems, increase life expectancy of trans persons through measures that reduce their vulnerability to violence and death, and to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide reparations to the victims of the murders of trans persons.

Through the Registry of Violence, the Commission noted that 80 percent of trans women killed in America were 35 years old or younger. This coincides with the information received by the Commission from civil society that the average life expectancy of trans women in Latin America is 35 years old, which reflect that many die as a result of killings. Through different monitoring mechanisms, including public hearings on the subject, the IACHR has also received information on the types of violence committed against trans men, which occurs mostly in private settings linked to violence within the family, and in the health and education sectors.

Further, the IACHR also found that most OAS Member States do not have data collection systems that take into account the gender identity of the victims and that many of the States that have these tools conflate gender identity and sexual orientation.

In the context of the State’s obligation to prevent human rights violations, data collection procedures are required in order to uniformly and accurately measure the prevalence, trends, and other aspects of violence in a given state or region. Detailed analysis of this data provides authorities with the information and insights that are needed in designing public policies to prevent further acts of violence. Furthermore, the IACHR stresses that data must be disaggregated as much as possible, so as to reflect the particularities and trends of violence. Disaggregation of data becomes a key factor when violence against trans persons is the result of the intersection of discrimination based on other grounds, such as race, ethnicity, disability, age, and nationality. Other factors include socio-economic status, line of work, being deprived of liberty and being a human rights defender, among others.

Additionally, the Commission finds a close link between exclusion, discrimination and the short life expectancy of trans persons. According to the information received by the IACHR, violence and discrimination against trans children and trans youth begins early, because they are often expelled from their homes, schools, families and communities, because of their gender identity. As a result, trans persons face poverty, social exclusion and high rates of lack of access to housing, pressing them to work in highly criminalized informal economies, such as sex work or survival sex. As a result, trans women are profiled as dangerous, making them vulnerable to police abuse, criminalization and to be imprisoned.

Similarly, exclusion hinders access to health care and to body transformations that are qualified or medically supervised -necessary for the construction of the identities of some trans persons-, generating health complications and even death. Thus the cycle of poverty and exclusion in which trans women are immersed makes them more vulnerable to death and violence by state and non-state actors.

The Commission urges OAS Member States to collect disaggregated data with respect to killings  of trans persons and other early deaths of trans persons and to reduce their general vulnerability to violence through the adoption of measures that reduce levels of poverty and include them in the education system and the formal labor market. Further, the Commission calls on OAS Member States to review legislative frameworks that criminalize and stigmatize sex workers. Finally, States must ensure that they investigate killings and other acts of violence against trans persons with due diligence, including to open lines of investigation that take into account the victim’s gender identity and gender expression; to punish perpetrators and compensate victims.

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. 137/15