October 2, 2015 at 1:44 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Honduran advocates organize LGBT rights conference

Honduras, gay news, Washington Blade

Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is the center of the Central American country’s Roman Catholic Church. Local LGBT rights advocates on Oct. 1, 2015, said during a conference they organized that religious officials remain a barrier to expanding LGBT rights in the country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — More than 100 people on Thursday gathered in the Honduran capital to discuss ways to expand the country’s LGBT rights movement.

Advocates from throughout Latin America attended the conference at the Hotel Plaza del Libertador in Tegucigalpa that Honduran LGBT rights advocates organized.

They discussed ways to curb anti-LGBT violence and discrimination that remains rampant in the Central American nation. Conference participants also highlighted the strong influence the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Christians have on Honduran society and how they can try to use the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to ensure LGBT people in the country are treated equally.

Ever Guillén of the Kukulkán Association, a Honduran advocacy group, said more than 150 LGBT people have been killed in the Central American country in recent years “in a systematic violation of human rights.” These include Walter Tróchez, a prominent LGBT rights advocate who was murdered in Tegucigalpa in 2009.

A report from the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crimes indicates Honduras in 2012 had the world’s highest murder rate, with 90.4 murders per 100,000 people.

This number has decreased somewhat over the last three years, but the violence has prompted tens of thousands of Hondurans to flee the country. A significant number of them have sought refuge in neighboring countries, such as Costa Rica, and the U.S.

Honduran advocates with whom the Washington Blade has previously spoken indicate transgender women remain particularly vulnerable to violence and discrimination from the police, gang members and other armed groups who operate in the country. One activist on Thursday said trans sex workers in Tegucigalpa are known to kill each other with machetes or other weapons in order to protect the area in which they have chosen to work.

“We are the same as everybody else,” said Marcela Romero of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People as she spoke during the conference.

Poverty disproportionately affects LGBT Hondurans

World Bank statistics indicate Honduras’ gross national income per capita in 2014 was $2,280, which makes it among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Guillén pointed to statistics that indicate 45 percent of Hondurans live on less than $1 a day. He further noted that LGBT Hondurans remain particularly susceptible to poverty because of discrimination and lack of access to the country’s political system.

Congresswoman Beatriz Valle attended a portion of the conference.

“The situation of Honduras is a situation that is very complex at the social, political and economic level,” said Guillén. “We are a very exclusionary country.”

Laws do little to deter anti-LGBT discrimination

The Honduran constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also prohibits same-sex couples from marrying and adopting children.

Honduras does not have a law that specifically bans hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Advocates continue to urge the country’s lawmakers to support a law that would allow trans Hondurans to legally change their name and gender.

“The state of Honduras must guarantee the protection and the defense of human rights,” reads a statement the organizers of Thursday’s conference released. “[It must] remain independent from all religious influence in accordance to the constitution of the republic.”

Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, a trans advocacy group in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city, has met with local police officers and soldiers to make them more sensitive to LGBT-specific issues.

Rampant gang violence and drug trafficking that frequently contributes to it has prompted many to describe San Pedro Sula as “the murder capital of the world.” Gabriela Redondo, director of Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, said during the conference that her group’s work with the authorities has had a positive impact.

“This has helped us,” said Redondo.

Anti-trans violence remains commonplace in San Pedro Sula, despite the aforementioned efforts.

Six members of Congress earlier this year in a letter that urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to fund LGBT advocacy efforts in Central America noted a Honduran television broadcast a video showing police “brutally” beating a trans woman. Nahomy Otero, a trans woman who lives in the city, told the Irish Times in May that trans Hondurans face “torture” and other abuse from “police officers and other public security agents.”

“Honduras has a bunch of bills and inclusive bills, but they do not translate into practice,” said Romero.

Thursday’s meeting took place a day before more than 200 LGBT rights advocates from throughout the Western Hemisphere will gather in Tegucigalpa for a regional conference the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund co-organized.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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