Our Voices

Honduras has entered a critical moment for LGBTQ+ rights

This May, a Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights delegation traveled to Honduras aiming to reinforce the implementation of reparations ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a key legal victory: Vicky Hernández et al. v. Honduras, the Court’s first trans rights case.

Alongside our partners at Red Lésbica Cattrachas, the group spent several days meeting with officials, diplomats, politicians, and civil society leaders, as well as Vicky’s family.

Vicky was a trans woman and activist who was killed while walking home during the first hours of the coup d’état in 2009. The evidence pointed to state security forces as the perpetrators, but the authorities made little effort to investigate and expressed discriminatory attitudes toward Vicky because of her gender identity. In its landmark judgment, the Court held Honduras responsible for her murder and ruled that regional human rights treaties prohibit all discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Mother’s Day was particularly significant, as it was a long-awaited encounter between Kerry Kennedy, president of RFK Human Rights, and Rosa Hernández, Vicky’s mother.

On May 9, state officials assembled under a tent in San Pedro Sula to publicly acknowledge the government’s responsibility for Vicky’s death, as well as to hear the apology of Honduran President Xiomara Castro to Vicky’s mother on behalf of the State. The ceremony was one of a series of reparation measures ordered by the Inter-American Court.

The San Pedro Sula Ceremony took place in the street outside the offices of Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, a trans activist group to which she belonged. The audience included current advocates from the collective and other members of the LGBTQ+ community; many of them held signs demanding justice and change.

“Today you apologize to us. But don’t forget 434 violent LGBT+ deaths,” read one sign, likely referring to data collected by Cattrachas on killings of LGBTQ+ individuals since Vicky’s death in 2009. By the day of the ceremony, there had already been at least 10 LGBTQ+ people murdered in 2022.

Rosa Hernández, who has serious health issues and had been hospitalized just the day before, nevertheless attended the event to receive the official apology in person. In an emotional speech, she called for an end to discrimination and for all parents to love their children “as they are.”

RFKHR President Kerry Kennedy also addressed the Honduran government representatives, noting that acknowledging a harm, accepting responsibility, and apologizing are three important steps toward a true apology. But she reminded them that these acts were insufficient without the “absolutely critical” fourth step: making reparations.

Beyond the public act of recognition, Honduras has yet to implement other reparations mandated by the Inter-American Court. For instance, the State is required to continue the investigation into Vicky’s death. The Court also ordered structural measures, including the establishment of a procedure for individuals to change their names and gender identities on official documents; training for security forces; a protocol to guide investigations and the administration of justice in cases of LGBTQ+ victims of violence; and the collection of data on anti-LGBTQ+ violence.

To encourage the government to proceed with the remaining reparations, advocates from RFKHR and Cattrachas met with Castro and several members of her cabinet. Wearing pins with Vicky’s image, the officials expressed their commitment to ending anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. Perhaps most critically, they agreed to take the necessary administrative steps to allow trans people to ensure that their official documents reflect their self-perceived names and gender identities.

Moving forward, RFKHR and Cattrachas will be closely following the government’s progress and advocating for the full implementation of the Court’s orders in Vicky’s case.