Jun 29, 2021 - World

Honduras responsible for trans woman's murder, human rights court rules

Photo of a person wrapped in the Honduran flag looking at an LGBTQ rainbow flag held in the air

A member of the Arcoiris (Rainbow) Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual and Bisexual (LGTB) Associaion, demonstrates on the International Day against Homophobia in the streets of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: Orlando Sierra/AFP via Getty Images

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Monday ruled that the Honduran government violated a trans woman's right to life and was responsible for her 2009 murder, according to attorneys in the case.

Why it matters: It's the first case to ask the court whether a government failed to protect a trans person. The court's ruling sets a legal precedent across Latin American, which has the highest concentration of trans murders in the world, activists say.

Catch up quick: Vicky Hernández's body was found the morning after the country's 2009 coup d'état. She had been shot in the head, with first responders judging her time of death to be the middle of the previous night, when a curfew was in place that only allowed military and law enforcement outdoors.

  • Two other trans women reported that a police patrol car had driven up to them and Hernández, who was a sex worker.

What they're saying: At the moment of her death there was "a context of violence, arbitrary detentions, murders and discrimination against LGBTI persons, and in particular against trans women who were sex workers," the court said, per Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which brought the case before the court with human rights group Red Lésbica Cattrachas.

  • "[I]n many cases, it was members of the public forces who perpetrated this violence."
  • The court ordered the government to compile "comprehensive information on the violence suffered by LGBTI persons in order to assess the real magnitude of this phenomenon and, accordingly, design strategies to prevent and eradicate new acts of violence and discrimination."
  • The ruling, which was issued on the 12-year anniversary of her death, mandates reparations for Hernández's family and training on anti-LGBTQ violence for security forces.
  • The Honduran government must also reopen its investigation into her murder, publicly acknowledge its role in her death and adopt measures to allow people to update their gender identity in documents, the court said.
Photo of Vicky Hernández in a purple outfit posing with one arm on her hip
A family photo of Vicky Hernández, courtesy of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Cattrachas. Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

"The judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in this case sheds light on structural violence in Honduras, which over the years has been strengthened by acts of discrimination against LGTTBI people, including in the justice system of justice," Indyra Mendoza, founder of Cattrachas, said in a statement.

  • "This structural violence has been supported by fundamentalist religious narratives, the media, and the discrimination against sexually diverse people in the political, workplace, and social spheres and has translated into their exclusion and death," Mendoza added.
  • "Honduras must change. The Americas must change. Justice for Vicky is justice for everyone."

The big picture: Violence in Honduras, especially against women and LGBTQ people, has driven asylum seekers to the U.S.-Mexico border.

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