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NEWS

Commentary: LGBTQI+ community suffers abuse under gender-based lockdown rules in Latin America

FairTrialsAdmin - May 18, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Commentary, Extended police powers, Rule of Law

On April 1, Panama’s president, Laurentino Cortizo, announced that men and women can only leave their homes on different days in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Peru followed suit the following day, and Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, the week after.

In Panama, almost immediately, the order proved to endanger the lives of transgender, non-binary, and queer people who present as visibly gender nonconforming. According to the order, women can go out to do essential shopping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and men on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. According to HRW, Bárbara Delgado, a transgender woman, left her house on Wednesday morning, to attend a medical centre near her home, where she volunteers as a health outreach worker. She was stopped by the police, detained for three hours and ordered to pay a US$50 fine.

The reason for the arrest, was Delgado’s national ID card that has the “male” marker, which was assigned to her at birth. In Panama, people cannot legally change their gender on identification documents unless they undergo sex reassignment surgery. Plus, authorities have the power to request an ID card to confirm gender, which is outrageous.

Panamanian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations have called for a gender and diversity perspective to inform measures in response to the pandemic.

A similar situation occurred in Peru, where the gender policy was rescinded almost immediately after being implemented and after registering abuses against transgender people. The policing of these laws was particularly brutal among the Peruvian transgender community as documented by different publications, videos, photos, and comments circulating on social media. For example, one video evidenced three transgender women being publicly humiliated by the police, made to squat and bounce while forced to declare “I want to be a man, I want to be a man.” The Ministry of the Interior decided to dismiss the police officers who intervened and subjected the transgender women in the Callao district. Other stories show physical and other forms of violence targeting transgender women.

Bogota instituted the same “gender policy” on April 13. Bogota’s mayor emphasized that transgender and nonbinary people can go out on days assigned to the gender with which they identify. The office emphasized that police cannot ask to check their ID to check for gender. However, this has done little to avoid harassment against transgender people. For example, three days after the policy was implemented, the expulsion of a trans man was denounced on social networks as a sign of the danger of the policy for the LGBTQ community. The man, who is identified in the news and social media only as Joseph, recorded a video in which he described being approached by an establishment’s employee who continuously addressed him using female pronouns. The gender policy was suspended last week in Bogota.

While the fight against the new coronavirus requires governments to take extraordinary measure, these blanket-gender policies are without a doubt a failure, depicting an over simplistic method to control population mobility and assuming gender equality in the functioning everyday life of the Latin American society. The truth is that policies based on gender increase the risk of violations of LGBTQ rights.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please call the media team on +44 (0) 7749 785 932 or email [email protected]

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