Mexico Has Become The World’s Second-Deadliest Country For Transgender People To Live
In Mexico, many in the trans community have become fearful for their lives as a record number of trans people have been killed in the country. Even with a pro-LGBTQ+ rights government at the helm, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office Dec. 1, has yet to put out any protections that would protect transgender people.
Upon taking office, President López Obrador made promises that his administration would conduct “effective” investigations into LGBTQ+ hate crimes and physical attacks. So far, these promises haven’t led to any changes violence has continued to increase against the LGBTQ+ community, according to a recent study by the LGBTQ+ rights group, Letra S.
From 2013-2018, 261 trans women have been killed in Mexico. Brazil is the only country more dangerous than Mexico for trans women.
While the study reflects numbers over a five-year span mostly before President López Obrador took office, death rates for trans women have already surged this year. 16 transgender women were reportedly killed from January to April this year already and at least six more since then, according to the Associated Press.
These growing numbers aren’t just a reflection of the dangers in Mexico but in Latin America as whole where these trends have continued. Trans women in Latin America are some of the most at-risk citizens facing sky-high rates of violence, sexual abuse, and homicide. An Amnesty International survey found that 88 percent of LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers from these areas have suffered sexual and gender-based violence in their countries of origin. From 2006 to 2016, 1,654 trans and gender-diverse people were killed in Central and South America.
So what is being done to help curb these homicide rates and pursue justice for those being killed? Not much.
Similar to other homicide-related crimes in Mexico, most of these attacks on the LGBTQ+ community have resulted in little to no actual convictions. According to the AP, less than 3 percent of LGBTQ+ homicides have resulted in a conviction since 2013.
In 2014, Mexico City became the first city in the country to allow trans people to change their gender and names on their legal birth certificates. This law has since been adopted by six of Mexico’s 32 states. Despite the progress in trans rights, a lot more needs to be done to protect people from violence and death.
There is still little being done to help the LGBTQ+ community in Mexico leaving community leaders and activists to pursue justice on their own.
Kenya Cuevas, a trans sex worker in Mexico, became an activist for the LGTBQ+ community when a fellow trans sex worker was killed in front of her. On Sept. 29, 2016, Cuevas’ friend, Paola Buenrostro was shot multiple times as she entered a john’s car. Cuevas ran to her friends rescue only to have the gun pointed at her but even though man pulled the trigger, she survived as the weapon jammed. She would hold the man until authorities came. She recorded everything that happened on her phone for evidence.
Despite Cuevas recording the incident and multiple witnesses on hand, the gunman was released from custody within a week. The incident lit a fire within Cuevas and inspired her to take matters into her own hands. She left the sex work industry and founded the organization Casa de Muñecas, a group that focuses on promoting protections for transgender women.
Cuevas has quickly become one of the most recognizable trans activists in Mexico who is calling for legal change in the country that would protect the trans community.
“When that happened to Paola, I protested and I did it publicly, asking for justice the entire time,” Cuevas told the AP. “I don’t want special treatment. Just give me justice — do your job.”
Women are leading the charge when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ rights and protections in Mexico.
The fight for the protection and equal rights for trans women in Mexico has been an uphill battle for many activist organizations. When it comes to finding jobs, employers have openly refused to hire transgender women which has resulted in many looking for sex work. In return, these limited opportunities have led to many of these women being on the streets where there are dangerous conditions.
The increase in violence against trans women in Mexico is a reflection of the overall dangerous situation in the country where homicide rates have reached record highs. Murders in Mexico have spiked in the first half of this year and at this current pace, it will most likely be the highest on record, according to official data.
Lina Pérez, president of the pro-LGBTQ organization Cuenta Conmigo, told the AP that the trans community is constantly left behind when it comes to receiving help because they are often shunned by police.
“It’s easier to grant impunity because the same people that oversee the law think that they’re sick, that there is something wrong with them,” Pérez said.
Cuevas said she will do whatever it takes to support LGBTQ+ rights and fight on behalf of the memory of her slain friend. This means having to deal with constant death threats if the Mexico government won’t take action.
“If I don’t do it, the government isn’t going to do it,” Cuevas said. “And if I wait for the government to do it, how many more people are going to be killed?”