On October 29, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights hosted a panel discussion and reception for a group of LGBTI activists from El Salvador at HRC’s headquarters in Washington, DC.
The reception followed a historic hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in which three transgender women from El Salvador shared their stories, and the stories of their murdered LGBT brothers and sisters, in front of the Commission and across the table from representatives from the Salvadoran government officials. The women’s testimony highlighted the failure of the government of El Salvador to protect the LGBTI community and investigate the all too frequent murders of community members.
While giving their remarks at HRC, this inspiring group of women and men shared their stories openly and with conviction. They expressed fear of a violent backlash from the Salvadoran government and anti-LGBT gangs for speaking at the Inter-American Commission. But they were clear in their purpose for traveling so many miles and risking so much: to speak out on behalf of their murdered friends whose cases remain uninvestigated and to force the Salvadoran government to acknowledge and take positive action regarding the epidemic of violence that is consuming the LGBT community.
Though violence has ravaged most communities in El Salvador, LGBT people and women are among the most vulnerable population in the country. In a 2010 poll, 71% of Salvadorans indicated they had been a victim of assault or crime within the past year, and violence against women has found to be leading cause of death for women ages 15 – 45 in El Salvador.
Within the LGBT community, the statistics are staggering. Asociación Entre Amigos, a major LGBT nonprofit in El Salvador, reported that 11 LGBT people were murdered in 2008, 23 were murdered in 2009, and ten were murdered in 2010. The remains of the bodies found frequently show signs of aggravated assault, torture, and rape.
The group of activists included Kara Stephanie Avelar from the Asociación Comunicado y Capacitando a Mujeres TRANS con o sin VIH en El Salvador (COMCAVIS TRANS), Nicole Santamaría from the Colectivo ALEJANDRIA en El Salvador, Modesto Mendizábal from the Asociación Salvadoreña de Mujeres Trans (ASTRANS),and Paty Hernández from the Asociación Solidaria Para Impulsar el Desarrollo Humano (ASPIDH ARCOIRIS).
HRC honors these women and men for their advocacy under some of the most challenging circumstances, while staying positive and fighting to make the future of the LGBT Salvadoran community a safer place.