Vicky Hernández et al. v. Honduras and Its Significance
The final decision in the Vicky Hernández et al. v. Honduras case in 2021 set a historic precedent for LGBTQ+ and, specifically, trans women’s rights in Latin America and the Caribbean creating a blueprint for other countries on how to move forward with accountability and justice.
Vicky Hernández was an LGBTQ+ rights activist in Honduras who advocated for rights of trans individuals and sex workers. Vicky’s murder occured on June 28, 2009 during the coup d'etat while a curfew was in place. It was followed by subsequent negligence on the part of the Honduran State that led to her now historic case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Red Lésbica Cattrachas represented Vicky’s family before the IACtHR arguing that Vicky was the victim of an extrajudicial killing, the State of Honduras was responsible for her death, the State’s investigation proved to be negligent, and that she was discriminated against because of her gender identity. In the hearing there were two key questions raised. (1) If the Convention of Belém do Pará could be applied to trans women and; (2) Whether Honduras could be held internationally responsible for the death of Vicky Hernández and if the lack of investigation by the State was motivated by her gender identity or expression.
The Convention of Belém do Pará is the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women. The Convention of Belém do Pará “defines violence against women, establishes that women have the right to live a life free of violence and that violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The Convention protects women from any violence in public and private spheres across all areas of life. At the time the Hernández case began, it was initially unclear whether this convention applied to transgender women. However, on November 24, 2017 the Inter-American Court released an Advisory Opinion clearly asserting that the rights outlined in the Convention of Belém do Pára extended to all women of any sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression and that they are protected by the non-discrimination provision in the Convention. As a result of this Advisory Opinion and the original language of the Convention of Belém do Pará, judges of the IACtHR voted a majority decision in applying the Convention to the Hernández case. This application of the Convention set a legal precedent for the protection of transgender women and other LGBTQ+ individuals in all countries under the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and even beyond.
In addition to this issue was the question of holding the State of Honduras internationally accountable for the death of Vicky Hernández and lack of investigation that followed it. While the State of Honduras accepted