Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Genocide in Honduras

Time to ask questions about the organisations complicit in exporting hate-crime and murder to the third world.

Honduras Nov 29 2010 - 18 Jan 2011

• Dania Roberta Sevilla Raudales (November 29, 2010. Beaten and burned to death age 58)
• Luisa Alex Alvarado Hernandez (December 22, 2010. Died from stoning and being set alight aged 23)
• Oscar Martínez Salgado (December 20, 2010. Stabbed and set on fire in her home aged 45)
• Reana Bustamante (December 29, 2010. Stabbed repeatedly)
• ‘Cheo’ ( January 2, 2011. Stabbed to death on a street in Tegucigalpa age unknown but from the picture I have seen she looks around 20)
• Génesis Briget Makaligton (January 7, 2011. Strangled)
• Fergie Alice Ferg (January 7, 2011 strangled age 25)
• Unknown transgender person (10 January 2011, no further details)

The seven names above are all transgender people. By the time you read this there may be more. They were all murdered in Honduras between the 29 Nov 2010 and 18 Jan 2010; seven murders in the space of just 48 days. They need to be added to the gruesome tally of at least 171 LGBT people murdered in Honduras in the lat five years. As things stand, a transgender person is being murdered in Honduras every week.

To put this is context, if trans people make up around 1% of the population, as current estimates suggest, this would be equivalent to 700 cisgender (non-transgender) people being murdered in less than two months. If people were being slaughtered at this rate anywhere in the world it would be in all the papers, but because the victims are transgender, and in a far-off third-world country we hear nothing. In fact, for a country with the population similar to that of London, there are vastly more trans people murdered there per head of population than anywhere else in the world. If a transgender person in London were being brutally murdered every week it would be world news.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued this statement condemning the killings. Despite the statement's cautious language it uses the word "impunity", strongly suggesting that this is happening with the connivance of the government of Honduras. If those who engage in hate-crime of this sort see that they can freely kill members a certain group of people in the knowledge that they will not be pursued, is there any wonder that transgender people in Honduras are being meticulously wiped out? Effectively the Honduran government is complicit in the deliberate and systematic extermination of its transgender citizens. But not just the government…

What is apparent from the list above is that these people have been murdered in a particularly frenzied, brutal and vicious way, stabbed multiple times, burned, beaten and stoned. The manner of their deaths, in particular the stoning, particularly barbaric crime, something normally used exclusively by religious maniacs, is probably the clue as to the source of this hatred. The excessive violence with which all these people have been murdered strongly suggests the influence of this kind of irrational hatred.

In fact, murders of transgender people in Honduras started to increase in October 2008, coinciding with an apparent increase in hate-speech apparently from the growing number of Christian evangelists and even the Catholic church, against transgender people as well as gays and lesbians, who are also being targeted.

It is time LGBT people and supporters of human rights around the world put pressure on the Honduran government to investigate these murders fully, to catch and punish the perpetrators and ensure that its transgender citizens can go about their lives without fear of a violent and horrific death. We also need public pressure on governments around the world to give refugee status to all LGBT people arriving from Honduras as a matter of course. Not only that, but Catholics and other Christians need to apply pressure on the Pope and leaders of evangelical churches to stop this incitement to genocide. These religious organisations cannot continue to operate in Honduras without significant financial help from people attending fundamentalist churches in Europe and North America whose donations are supporting these crimes.

Indeed these murders throw up the issue of the activities of fundamentalist Christian groups in third-world countries. The proposal to introduce the death penalty for homosexuality in Uganda has been blamed by many on the influence of these organisations. It would seem that, given their inability to successfully incite the wide-scale murder of LGBT people in Western Europe and North America they have decided to pick on people even less able to defend themselves. The leaders of these groups raise money from unwitting churchgoers in the UK, the US and elsewhere to fund those encouraging this violence in the full knowledge of its consequences. Much as I would like to see these criminals posing as religious leaders brought to account for their crimes, I suspect the law is not capable of doing so. But public pressure can be applied to these religious extremists. Bullies prefer shadows; it is time to turn the full glare of the spotlight on them. Time for those who donate to fund “ministries” abroad to ask rather more probing questions about what their money is being used for.

Genocide is a strong word to use, but in the case of transgender people in Honduras I can find no other. It is clear to me that the government of Honduras and a number of supposedly Christian organizations have blood on their hands. And, unless those who contribute to the coffers of these groups start to take responsibility for finding out what is being done in their name and with their money, so will they.