April 14, 2020 at 12:34 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Peru found responsible for rape, torture of transgender woman
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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has issued a landmark ruling that says Peru is responsible for the rape and torture of a transgender woman.

Azul Rojas Marín alleges police officers in Casa Grande, a town in the La Libertad region of northern Peru that is roughly 370 miles northwest of the country’s capital of Lima, detained her on Feb. 25, 2008. Rojas says she was forcibly stripped and beaten before two officers sodomized her with a police baton.

Rojas filed a formal complaint against the officers two days after the incident took place.

The court’s ruling — released on March 12, but made public on April 6 — notes local prosecutors launched an investigation into Rojas’ allegations, but they later dropped it. Rojas appealed the decision, but a Peruvian court in January 2009 “dismissed the investigation into the crimes of aggravated sexual assault and abuse of power.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepted Rojas’ case nearly a decade later.

The ruling orders Peru to “provide medical, psychological and/or psychiatric treatment” to Rojas and to prosecute the officers who tortured her. The ruling also directs Peru to track anti-LGBTQ violence in the country and develop a national strategy to respond to them.

Gabriela Oporto Patroni, a lawyer with Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, a Peruvian LGBTQ advocacy group known by the acronym PROMSEX, represented Rojas.

Oporto on April 8 told the Washington Blade during a WhatsApp interview from Lima that Rojas “is very pleased with the sentence.” Oporto also said the ruling sends a strong message to LGBTQ Peruvians who remain disproportionately vulnerable to violence and discrimination because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

“The Peruvian state in the entire process before the court, before the commission, all the time has denied the existence of discrimination against LGTB people in Peru,” Oporto told the Blade.

“It is absolutely false that there is no discrimination against LGTB,” added Oporto. “The court has recognized that this context persists to this day.”

Oporto said Peru has not responded to the ruling.

“We have not had any communication from them,” Oporto told the Blade.

The Organization of American States created the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is based in Costa Rica, in 1979 in order to enforce provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Peru is among the countries in the Americas that recognize the convention.

The court has previously ruled in favor of LGBTQ rights.

The court in 2018 issued another landmark ruling that recognized same-sex marriage and trans rights in the Western Hemisphere. The court in 2012 ruled in favor of Karen Atala, a judge who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband because she is a lesbian.

The court also works closely with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which has urged countries in the region to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations and address anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination.

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

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