Our Voices

Kerry Kennedy, mother of Vicky Hernandez celebrate Mother’s Day and discuss long-awaited justice

San Pedro Sula, Honduras – Mother’s Day was a reunion seven years in the making for Kerry Kennedy and the mother of slain trans woman and activist, Vicky Hernandez. After climbing the steps to enter Vicky’s childhood home, the two women entered a tearful embrace.

“Thank you for keeping hope alive and for raising this beautiful child,” Kennedy told Rosa Hernandez.

“Thank you for everything,” Hernandez replied, with members of her extended family looking on.

The visit comes on the eve of a Public Act of Recognition by the Honduran government, an event mandated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for officials to formally acknowledge responsibility for Vicky’s June 2009 murder.

Vicky was killed on the night of the Honduran coup d’état when a 48-hour curfew was imposed and the streets were closed to everyone but military and police forces. She had been visiting a friend but left soon after hearing the news of her curfew, but still was shot in the head and her body was left in the street.

Afterward, the state’s investigation was characterized by negligence, inaction and a culture of impunity. Forensic evidence found next to Hernández’s body was never tested. Results of an autopsy were never shared with her family, advocates or the court.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Red Lésbica Cattrachas represented Vicky’s family before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, arguing that Vicky was the victim of an extrajudicial killing, the State of Honduras was responsible for her death, its investigation proved to be negligent and that she was discriminated against because of her gender identity. In the November 2020 hearing, there were several key questions raised: 1) could the Convention of Belém do Pará be applied to trans women, 2) could Honduras be held responsible internationally for the death of Vicky Hernández and 3) was the lack of investigation by the State motivated by her gender identity or expression?

In its June 28, 2021 ruling, the Court specified that at the moment of Vicky’s death there was “a context of violence, arbitrary detentions, murders and discrimination against LGBTQ persons, and in particular against trans women who were sex workers.” Moreover, it recognized that “in many cases, it was members of the public forces who perpetrated this violence.”

As part of that ruling, the court ordered the Honduran government to issue a series of reparations–including financial support for Vicky’s family. Rosa Hernandez is suffering from cancer and other health issues and is currently unable to afford treatment under the Honduran health system.

The court also ordered a public act of recognition and responsibility for Vicky’s murder, educational scholarships for trans women, a procedure to change trans individuals’ names and gender identity on documents, and a permanent training plan for state security forces.

So far, the public act of responsibility has been the only reparation the Honduran government has moved forward on.

Kennedy and lawyers from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights have spent recent days in Honduras meeting with officials and demanding responsibility for her murder and timely issuance of the other reparations.

The average life expectancy of a trans woman in Latin America is currently only 35 years, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. What’s more, violence is only increasing against the LGBTQ population. According to Cattrachas’ data observation system, more than 400 LGBTQ people in Honduras have been killed since Vicky’s death in 2009. This year, so far, there have already been at least 10 LGBTQ murders, officials say.

As the large group of family and advocates sat down to enjoy a homemade beef soup cooked by Rosa Hernandez, Kennedy noted that “Because of you, the impunity stopped, and people realize there can be an end to this impunity. We are grateful for you, and we look forward to the next battle.”