The struggle against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia continues in Honduras.
The statistics are grim.
Between 2009 and mid-2018, 296 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in Honduras were murdered.
Honduras also had the highest per capita number of transgender murders in the world between 2008 and 2014, according to a report by Transgender Europe.
And there is a high level of impunity.
Of the 141 violent deaths reported between 2010 and 2014, less than one-quarter (30) of the cases have been prosecuted in the courts.
The Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project accompanies the advocacy group Asociación LGTB Arcoiris de Honduras (LGTB Rainbow Association of Honduras) in the vital — and dangerous — work it does in this context to advance equal rights.
From June 2015 to March 2016, six members of Arcoíris were killed, including Paola Barraza who was shot five times when she opened the front door of her home in January 2016.
Other Arcoíris activists have survived assassination attempts. Jlo Córdoba was shot by a Honduran soldier in 2014, and survived three more assassination attempts in 2016.
Many others have faced intimidation, harassment and physical attacks.
“I’ve been imprisoned on many occasions. I’ve suffered torture and sexual violence because of my activism, and I’ve survived many assassination attempts,” says Arcoíris coordinator Donny Reyes.
“The biggest problem that we face is the violence of the state security forces towards the LGBT+ community: the armed forces, the police, the criminal investigation police, military police, municipal police,” Reyes adds.
“The research studies that Arcoiris and other organizations have done reflect the same pattern — more than 60 per cent of hate crimes have been committed against us by those forces who should be guaranteeing our safety.”
The journalists who report on this violence in Honduras are also in danger. Dina Meza, an independent investigative reporter who is accompanied by PBI-Honduras, says that reporters who cover violence against the LGBTI+ community have been physically assaulted by security forces, expelled from public events, and have been the subject of smear campaigns.
The violence also drives migration.
In November 2018, Telesur reported that a group of at least 40 Honduran LGBT youth were travelling as part of a migrant caravan to the United States. They were making the arduous and dangerous journey to escape the discrimination, violence and poverty in their home country.
Reyes himself once had to spend 10 months outside of Honduras for his own safety.
Most recently, Arcoíris has launched a significant court challenge.
The Honduran Constitution expressly bans same-sex marriage and refuses to recognize them even if they have been legally sanctioned in other countries, including in Canada where it has been legal since July 2005.
In July 2018, Reyes and Alex Soto of the Centre for LGBTI Development and Cooperation (Somos CDC) filed a constitutional challenge on marriage equality and adoption. That petition is pending before the Supreme Court of Honduras, which is expected to rule on the challenge later this year.
On May 17 of this year, PBI-Honduras Project accompanied LGBT Arcoiris at a march in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
More than 350 people, despite the dangers they face, marched towards the city’s main square to demand an end to the violence, the legal recognition of trans peoples’ gender identity, and an end to the prohibitions on marriage and adoption for same-sex couples.
Reyes says, “We need a Honduras that’s free from violence and homophobia. We believe it’s our responsibility to fight for this so the next generation have a space to live in a better world.”
The PBI-Honduras Project has accompanied LGTB Arcoiris since July 2015.
Brent Patterson is Executive Director of Peace Brigades International-Canada, a political activist, and a writer. Readers can follow PBI-Canada on Twitter for further updates here.
Image: Peace Brigades International