April 17, 2020 at 1:06 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Activists question gender-based coronavirus prevention measures in Latin America
Panama has implemented a “pico y género” rule to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Transgender activists in Latin America have expressed concern over rules that allow people to leave their homes during the coronavirus pandemic based on their gender.

A “pico y género” rule that took effect in Panamá on April 2 allows men to leave their homes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in order to buy food and medications and to go to the bank. Women can leave their homes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Reuters reports Panamanians, regardless of their gender, cannot leave their homes on Sundays.

The Peruvian government implemented a similar “pico y género” rule earlier this month.

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, said police officers and soldiers in several Peruvian cities harassed trans women who had left their homes to buy food and medicine on days when women were allowed to do so.

Oporto said many of these incidents were recorded and posted to social media.

“It has caused problems for many trans people, people with non-binary gender expression,” Oporto told the Washington Blade on April 14 during a WhatsApp interview from Lima, the Peruvian capital.

Claudia López, the first woman and first lesbian elected mayor of the Colombian capital of Bogotá, implemented a “pico y género” rule in her city that allows women to leave their homes on even days and men to leave their homes on odd days.  

Fundación de Grupo de Acción y Apoyo a Personas Trans, a Bogotá-based trans advocacy group known by the acronym GAAT, in a press release notes authorities will enforce the rule based on a person’s gender identity. GAAT nevertheless notes the regulation “opens the door to situations of discrimination and police abuses.”

“Similar measures have been implemented in Panama and Peru,” notes GAAT in its press release.

“In the case of Peru, the president called for no discrimination, but it did not prevent abuses against trans women in shops and even worse by the police who were in charge of implementing the measures,” added GAAT.  

GAAT says it reached out to Bogotá officials who work directly on LGBTQ-specific issues and urged them to ensure the police don’t discriminate against trans people while they implement the “pico y género” rule.

Luis Ernesto Gómez, who is López’s chief-of-staff, in an April 8 tweet confirmed the rule allows trans people to leave their homes on days based on their gender identity.

Discrimination and violence based on gender identity remains commonplace throughout Latin America. Activists throughout the region with whom the Blade regularly speaks say police officers are among those who target trans people.

The Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People, a group known by the acronym REDLACTRANS, in a press release notes there has been “an increase in institutional violence throughout the region” during the coronavirus pandemic.

REDLACTRANS specifically singles out Colombia, Peru, Panama, Honduras and Ecuador as countries in which it has seen this trend play out. REDLACTRANS also notes Gabriela Redondo, a trans activist in Honduras, is among the dozens of people who have been victims of “arbitrary arrests” since the pandemic began.

“Trans people of Latin America and the Caribbean are a population at-risk against the coronavirus,” says REDLACTRANS in its press release. “If the responses of the states are not aligned to this reality, they increasingly lead us to death.”

“We have rights and we demand respect,” it adds.

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

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