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NEWS

What lies beneath the arbitrary arrests of trans people in Peru?

FairTrialsAdmin - June 30, 2020

This article was written by Gabriela J. Oporto Patroni, Strategic Litigation Coordinator at PROMSEX- Peru

 

In Peru, the government adopted a series of measures to cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic within days of the first case being identified in March 2020. A provision to reduce the transit of people and to prevent the spread of the virus, decreed that women and men should go out to buy food on different days. Even though the measure was effective,[1] it was only enforced for eight days.

Why was an effective measure revoked within a few days? To understand this, we must acknowledge the context in Peru where gender stereotypes are deeply ingrained. For example, on the days when only men could go outside, media reports reinforced negative gender stereotypes.[2] And on the days when only women could go out, markets were crowded, and crowds (which should be avoided) abounded.[3]

Although to many people it was immediately clear on what days they could or could not go out, there was a part of the citizenship that did not have it so easy: trans people. Who are trans people? In short, they are people who identify with a different gender than the one assigned to them at the time of their birth.

In Peru, as in most of the world, people are assigned names - by custom, here there are two - and a sex - which can only be male or female. Additionally, the assigned names must agree with the assigned sex. It is generally assumed that all people identify with the sex assigned to them at birth, and that they only feel attraction to people of the opposite sex.

Although a little abstract, this description can be understood with a simple example: girls are dressed in skirts and made to play with dolls or cooking games; boys are dressed in pants and made to play with soccer balls and toy cars, no matter what inclination or taste the child has.

The existence of these preconceptions has led many people, over many years, to affirm that trans people are sick, wrong or that they can be “corrected.” At the legal level, these ideas have led to the construction of a legal system that does not consider the situation of trans people with respect to official documents that record identity.

The same happened with the measure dictated by the Peruvian government, which designated “outside days” for men and women during the pandemic, since it did not consider that trans people were going to have problems: their physical appearance reflects their identity, but their legal documents record the sex and names assigned at birth. Despite the fact that the president and his ministers expressed that there should be no acts of discrimination against them, from the first day the measure came into force, problems were reported.[4]

This, rather than being a novelty for trans people, served as evidence of a problem they usually face: arbitrary, illegal and discriminatory arrests.

In 2008, Azul was the victim of one of these arrests. She is a trans woman who lives in a city in northern Peru, and was walking back to her home after selling animals, an activity that she and her mother supported themselves with. Without a valid justification, police officers arrested Azul with beatings and homophobic insults, and took her to a police station where they physically, verbally and sexually abused her. From the beginning, Azul reported the facts to the authorities, but before properly investigating and ensuring exemplary punishment for those responsible, the authorities prevented any attempt to investigate and closed the investigation in less than a year and a half. This was done in record time for the slow Peruvian justice system.

More than 12 years after Azul's arbitrary arrest, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has declared not only that Azul's detention was arbitrary, but also motivated by the prejudice of the police officers towards her and that it occurred in a general context of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in Peru. Likewise, the court declared that the investigations were riddled with negligent actions and guided by stereotypes, which guaranteed impunity for the aggressors.[5]

Unfortunately, Azul's case is not isolated. As the Inter-American Court recognized, in Peru there is a generalized context of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. According to information compiled by civil society organizations, LGBTQ+ people are often assaulted by family, and fellow students and agents of the State (national and municipal police).

Trans people get the worst of it. Not only is their life expectancy significantly shorter than that of the general population (it is estimated to be between 35 and 40 years), but also, due to the impossibility of accessing an adequate identity document, trans people in Peru live in a constant situation of social, economic and political exclusion, which this pandemic has exposed in the most stark manner.[6]

More than three months into the national quarantine, with a collapsing health system, the virus has exhibited weaknesses in the "success story" of the Peruvian economy.[7] The lack of public investment, the informality of the economic system, generalized corruption, among other conditions, have contributed to show the great inequities in Peru, and the pending debt that we have as a society with historically marginalized sectors, including trans people.

Read the article in Spanish.

 

[1] <https://ojo-publico.com/1749/datos-de-google-nos-dicen-que-medidas-de-ai....

[2] <https://gestion.pe/peru/el-dia-en-que-los-hombres-llenaron-los-mercados-....

[3] <https://elcomercio.pe/lima/sucesos/coronavirus-peru-afluencia-de-mujeres....

[4] <https://cerosetenta.uniandes.edu.co/las-lecciones-que-dejo-el-fallido-in....

[5] <http://corteidh.or.cr/docs/casos/articulos/seriec_402_esp.pdf>.

[6] <https://especiales.elcomercio.pe/?q=especiales/mujeres-trans-en-tiempos-....

[7] <https://www.nytimes.com/es/2020/06/12/espanol/america-latina/peru-corona....

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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