September 26, 2017 at 5:40 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute launches Honduras election campaign

LGBT rights advocates in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, take part in a Pride march on July 15, 2017. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute has launched a campaign that seeks to increase LGBT Hondurans’ involvement in the country’s upcoming general election. (Photo courtesy of Freddy Funez)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute on Monday formally launched an initiative that seeks to promote LGBT and intersex Hondurans’ engagement in their country’s political process.

The launch of the Vote for Equality campaign coincides with a gathering of LGBT and intersex rights advocates in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. It also comes two months before the country’s general election that is scheduled to take place on Nov. 26.

“Our Vote for Equality campaign is in Honduras to help unite the LGBTQ community with other marginalized groups demanding change — youth, indigenous women, Afro-descendants, people with disabilities and human rights defenders,” Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute Director of International Programs Luis Abolafia Anguita told the Washington Blade in a statement.

Abolafia noted the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute is working with the Tegucigalpa-based Center for LGBTI Development and Cooperation and other Honduran advocacy groups on the campaign. Caribe Afirmativo, an LGBT and intersex advocacy group in Colombia, and the National Democratic Institute, a Washington-based group that seeks to bolster democratic institutions around the world, are also working with the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute in Honduras.

“We are empowering advocates to push for more inclusive political parties and government that can lead to protections and pro-equality measures,” he told the Blade. “And we are providing LGBTQ people with the issue positions of the various parties to ensure they can make informed votes on election day. Honduran LGBTQ advocates are risking their lives for their community — and we are doing what we can to help them succeed.”

A number of LGBT advocates are running for the Honduran congress this year.

David Valle of the Center for LGBTI Development and Cooperation is a candidate for the leftist Democratic Unification Party. Rihanna Ferrera, a transgender woman who co-founded Asociación Cozumel Trans, a trans advocacy group that is also based in Tegucigalpa, is a candidate for the center-left United Social Democratic and Innovation Party.

Erick Martínez of the Tegucigalpa-based Diversity Movement in Resistance who is a member of the Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) and Anti-Corruption Parties, a left-leaning coalition that opposes President Juan Orlando Hernández’s ruling National Party, in March did not garner enough votes in the primary to advance to the general election.

Kendra Stefani Jordany, a trans woman from the city of San Pedro Sula who is also a member of LIBRE, in March became the first openly trans person to win a primary when she was among the candidates for the Central American Parliament who advanced to the general election. Jordany and Ferrera would become the first openly trans people elected to public office in Honduras if they win in their respective races.

Elections ‘a tool’ for politicians to attack LGBT Hondurans

Statistics from advocacy groups indicate more than 200 LGBT and intersex Hondurans have been reported killed in the country since a coup toppled then-President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation also remains commonplace in the Central American country that borders Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Valle — who was brutally attacked inside his home in July — told the Blade last week during an interview at his Tegucigalpa office politicians and candidates regularly criticize LGBT Hondurans ahead of elections.

“One of the mechanisms that those who seek elected office in Honduras always use is attacking the LGTB community to win the votes of other much larger sectors,” said Valle. “They then attack the LGTB community during election season. Elections are a tool that politicians always use.”

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute in 2015 co-sponsored an LGBT and intersex rights conference in Tegucigalpa.

Hundreds of advocates from Honduras and across Latin America attended the gathering. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Randy Berry — who remains the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights around the world — is among the officials who spoke.

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

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