November 20th, 2009 marks the 10th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. On this day we remember those who have been killed by hatred and prejudice against transgender people and raise public awareness to combat violence against transgender people.
On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we also celebrate the tremendous work of transgender activists and human rights defenders committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of transgender people. This is a powerful opportunity to insist that transgender rights are human rights, and that all members of the global community have an obligation to stop violence against transgender people.
Every year, transgender people face the omnipresent threats of murder, violence, imprisonment, and pervasive discrimination. The tragic deaths of over 200 trans people reported in the last two years alone-and the countless others that go unreported around the world–are sobering reminders of transgender people’s vulnerabilities to individual and state-sponsored violence and discrimination because of their gender identity and gender expression.
Between January 2008 and June 2009, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, the highest rates of murder reports of transgender people came from the Americas: 82 murders were reported from Brazil, 20 from Venezuela, 16 from the US, 11 from Colombia, 10 from Guatemala, 10 from Mexico, 5 from Honduras, 4 from Venezuela, 3 from Argentina and 3 from the Dominican Republic. Murders of transgender people have also been reported in seven European countries in the same period (Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Serbia, Russia and Turkey), four Asian countries (Iraq, Malaysia, Singapore and India), and two Oceanic countries (Australia and New Zealand).
It is vital that States address and end the impunity for violence against transgender people such as the recent brutal murders of Kenia Mayli, Jessica Andreina, and Sabrina Garcia Cajas in Guatemala, the murder of Xiomara Duran in Caracas, Venezuela, the attacks on a transgender man, Ian Breppe, in La Matanza, Argentina and the attacks on Clara Andrade Galdames and Grace Morales León in Valparaíso City, Chile.
Governments must not only investigate these crimes fully and fairly, but also actively employ measures and programs that will prevent violence and discrimination against transgender people in the future, such as training police to protect and work respectfully with LGBTI communities.
State-sponsored persecution of transgender people must also cease, including the ongoing harassment of trans activists by the police in Delhi, India and the recently intensified police harassment of transgender and transsexual persons in Turkey using the Law of Misdemeanours to legitimize fines, detentions, evictions, extortion, and violence.
In addition to the direct threat of violence, transgender people around the world face extensive discrimination in every sphere of life, including in access to basic human necessities such as education, housing, and health care. In 2008, for example, police in Bangalore, India sent a notice, accompanied by verbal threats, requiring 40 homeowners in Bangalore to evict 100 hijras who rented rooms or apartments from them and in October 2009, Jose Garcia, a 19-year-old student in Belmopan, Belize, was expelled from school because he dressed and acted in what was considered to be a feminine manner.
The health issue is one of the most serious we have in our country. We don’t have primary health service for trans women. When a trans woman goes to a hospital she is treated like an alien from space.
States can fight this discrimination with laws and policies that respect the gender identities of all people. For example, states can require workers and professionals at hospitals to call trans, transgender, travesti, and transsexual patients by their chosen names.
Everyone has the right to life under international human rights law. No one should be arbitrarily deprived of life because of gender identity. Everyone, regardless of gender identity, has the right to security of the person and to protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual or group. Everyone is entitled to enjoy all human rights without discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Laws should prohibit any such discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against any such discrimination.
To ensure the human rights of transgender people, the international community must continue to pressure governments to uphold their national and international human rights obligations and to respect, protect, and promote the lives and dignity of transgender people everywhere.