Case Studies

Coqueta: “Are you a man, are you a woman, what are you?”


Andrea Correa (also known as Coqueta) is a trans activist and sex worker. For many years, Coqueta has faced police violence against trans women in Bogotá and says that the situation only worsened during the COVID-19 quarantine in July 2020.

The most violent episode happened in a bank at the Veinte de Julio neighbourhood in Bogotá, on a day when women were allowed to mobilize according to the gender-based lockdown measure Pico y Género.. This was a day Coqueta had the right to go out.

“I was standing in line, there were about 10 people there and a police officer approached me and asked: “what is the lady doing here?” Coqueta tried to explain but when the policeman heard her voice, he became upset and immediately took her out of the line. “But what are you?” Asked the policeman. “Are you a man, or a woman, or what are you?”

After this, the police asked Coqueta to verify her identity, something that he was not allowed to do under the Pico y Género decree. Knowing her rights, Coqueta refused to show her ID, and tried to record him. The policeman responded by physically assaulting her and challenging her to record what was happening.

“The worst thing of all was the shame I felt in front of the people. (…) The mockery, the joke was always present, it was something very humiliating.”

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This wasn’t the only episode of police violence that Coqueta experienced during the quarantine. On two other occasions she was stopped and searched by male police officers, when protocol states that a trans woman should only be searched by a female officer. The two times that she has resisted these searches, they falsely accused her of carrying drugs.

“It didn’t just happen to me, it happened to several girls,” she says. “Many girls stopped going out and shopping for the same reason. (…) Even with female police officers it is the same, they are very abusive, when they search us, they say things like: ‘I am not going to touch -that.-’”

Coqueta also claims that the persecution of sex workers in the street during the quarantine increased up to three times in the city, a situation she compares to what sex workers lived through during the 1980s. She says that this persecution began to flare up during Pico y Género, but that it continued beyond the measure.

“They tell us that we cannot do it on the street, but then where do we do it? What do we live on?! You have to go out to work, I’m the bread winner” protests Coqueta, who also said that sex workers are being evicted from their homes for lack of payment with the help of the police, something that was supposedly prohibited due to the emergency.