March 5, 2021

Run away or die, the options of the LGBTI community in El Salvador

The violence and discrimination suffered by the LGBTI community in El Salvador forces its members to flee the country so as not to die at the hands of the gangs or security forces of a state "complicit" in the murders and impunity, according to allegations of activists

This was assured by Efe Bianka Rodríguez and Roberto Zapata, human rights activists from the lesbian, gai, bisexual, transgender and intersexual community of El Salvador, where more than 600 hate murders remain in impunity.

El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world. The homicide rates of between 103 and 50.3 per 100,000 registered inhabitants between 2015 and 2018 account for this reality.

According to various social organizations, this homicidal violence is also one of the factors that generate forced displacement, whose flow includes members of the LGBTI community.

Data provided to Efe by the Association Communicating and Training Trans (COMCAVIS-TRANS), directed by Rodríguez, indicate that between 2018 and so far in 2019, 151 cases of displacement were reported.

The main victims are trans women with 67.5% of cases and followed by gay men with 17.2%.

Those responsible for this phenomenon are mostly gangs and state forces, with the attempted murder, threats and injuries being the events that trigger displacement.

To this is added the predominant impunity in the more than 600 murders of LGBTI persons registered since 1993 and in which gang members, police and military are the main implicated.

"Trans people are persecuted by security forces to exercise physical violence and sexual violence. That means that the State is complicit in that violence," Rodriguez said.

He added that trans women are also victims of trafficking by "maras", which force them to commit illicit or pay a "sexual fee", which implies "having sex without any method" of protection and "without any remuneration" .

"We are in a dead end," the trans activist lamented, adding that the victims "have to flee the country in search of recognition of their rights" and not be "another statistic" of homicidal violence.

Violence and impunity are not the only blunders that undermine the rights of the Salvadoran LGBTI community, given that the discrimination they suffer leads them to live in a precarious economic situation.

According to Roberto Zapata, general secretary of the Amate Association, LGBTI people face "different barriers when it comes to passing a selection process to get a job," since "there is a lot of prejudice."

The data managed by his organization show that two thirds of trans women "are in some form of labor exclusion", so many "are doing sex work as the only means of subsistence."

This situation, he says, has led part of this population to live below the poverty line.

On the other hand, those who achieve formal employment must decide between hiding that they belong to the LGBTI population to avoid harassment or face derision and the blockage of "wage increases or increases."

"When the material and economic conditions converge with all the social stigma that there is for our orientation and gender identity, other phenomena are seen, such as forced displacement," he said.

Rodríguez and Zapata agree that the right to life, employment and social security are not the only ones denied by the State, to these is added the lack of gender identity legislation.

The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly received in March 2018 a Gender Identity Law initiative of various social organizations, which was only supported by the then ruling Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN).

"The debate has gone slowly," Zapata said.

The only discussion of its content that is publicly known occurred on May 13, according to the Legislative body's website, more than a year after its presentation.

According to Rodríguez, several of the deputies of the Commission for Women and Gender Equality were unaware of the content of the initiative and believed that it sought to legalize equal marriage.

"This draft would not recognize the access to equal marriage", but the right to a "change of name" according to "perceived and self-assumed identity," he said.

Both human rights defenders also urge the creation of anti-discrimination regulations since Congress, given that only the Executive body has promoted such initiatives in previous years with a "small scope".

"Now the LGBTI social movement demands a law that prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity," Rodriguez added.

The organizations of sexual diversity saw with suspicion the arrival of the Salvadoran president, Nayib Bukele, to the Executive last June 1, so during the march of the International LGBTI Pride Day they expressed their intention not to take a step back "in the progress achieved.

One of Bukele's first actions, by the right-wing Grand Alliance for National Unity (WINS), was to eliminate the Secretariat of Social Inclusion (SIS).

According to Rodríguez, with this action "the whole system that promoted the sphere of inclusion was broken" from the Executive, confirming their fears of "backward movement".

The activist also criticized that the powers to combat discrimination were assigned to the Ministry of Culture.

"We do not ask for special rights," said Rodríguez, who said his only aspiration is a life "free of violence, free of stigma, free of discrimination."

Hugo Sanchez

. (tagsToTranslate) Escape (t) options (t) community (t) LGBTI (t) Salvador

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