Honduras, the World is Watching
In June, our attorneys won a landmark case before the Inter-American Court, which ordered the state of Honduras to implement new protections for LGBTQ+ people. In their op-ed for the New York Times en Español, Angelita Baeyens and Kacey Mordecai remind Honduras the clock is ticking to comply with the Court’s demands.
Latin America is a cruel region for trans people. Many of them die in violent and unclear circumstances, and justice rarely resolves their cases. Their life expectancy, according to various studies, is 35 years.
Being trans in that part of the world means, in too many cases, being condemned to violence, poverty, and marginalization. Life options, many times, have been summarized in fleeing their countries or staying and being attacked, discriminated against, or killed.
That was the case with Vicky Hernández, a Honduran trans woman, sex worker, and passionate activist, who also was a dear daughter and sister. Her life mattered. But, in 2009, at 26, she was killed by a shot to the head. Her body was left in the street. An autopsy was not done. Vicky’s murder remains under investigation and the Honduran state said that her murder had been a “crime of passion.” It’s hard to argue that in a country where more than 119 trans people have been killed in similar circumstances over the past decade: they were shot in the head and there were no investigations.
So we decided to seek justice for Vicky. From Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and together with colleagues from Red Lésbica Cattrachas, we took the case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the highest authority on human rights in the region. It was a multi-year effort, but we knew the resolution would have significant legal implications. Our goal was to demand justice for Vicky’s death and impunity in her case, but we also wanted something more ambitious: to make visible the physical violence, stigma, and social exclusion that trans people face in Honduras and Latin America. This is the time to demand structural changes to remedy that situation.
By investigating Vicky’s life and death, we understood the lack of access to basic services, the difficulties in obtaining formal employment, and the legal barriers to name change and recognition of her gender identity and expression suffered by trans people. We saw how a persistent culture of impunity has prevented the punishment of those who commit transphobic crimes, and how many governments in the region have chosen to ignore this reality.
To do Vicky justice, you have to understand how the system fails trans women and how it can be improved.
And, in that sense, the h