Honduras: Transvestites And Gay Men Again Threatened With Expulsion From City; Act Now to Protect Freedom of Movement

SUMMARY

Once again, transgender and female sex workers have been targeted for harassment in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the country's industrial center and second largest city. The authorities have decided to turn the area where sex workers usually work into a tourist attraction and "relocate" them to another part of town--a process that has involved no consultation with organized transvestites or female sex workers. Neighbors have already reacted with violence against these communities, and police are threatening with massive arrests.

ACTION

Write NOW to Honduran authorities to call for the integration of the gay and transgender communities within the debates around the creation of a "red zone", to protect them against violence, and to put an end to police threats until a solution is formulated:

Please write to:

Mayor Oscar Kilgore
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Phone/Fax: +504-553-4646, +504-558-1995
E-mail: alcaldia@netsys.hn
Municipal Judge Alvaro Aguilar Frenzel
Phone: +504-557-5700
Fax: +504-557-6477
National Human Rights Commission
Fax: +504-556-1850 or +504-552-8113
National Police Chief
Ms. Coralia Rivera de Coca
Phone: +504-237-0906 or +504-237-9070
E-mail: ayudantla@hondudata.com

Please send copies of letters to:

Comunidad Gay San Pedrana
Phone: +504-555-3190 or +504-553-4362
E-mail: comunidadgay@yahoo.com

SAMPLE LETTER

Major Oscar Kilgore

Dear Sir,

I/we write to express deep concern about the exclusion of gay and transvestite people from debates around creating a "red zone" in San Pedro Sula.

We are alarmed at previous attempts by the authorities to limit freedom of movement by "transvestites and effeminate looking people"--as you yourself have called them in January 2002. Recently, Municipal Judge Mr. Alvaro Aguilar, in reference to transvestitate and female sex workers, has said that "evil must be attacked."

Hateful statements coming from authorities have been echoed by the local police, who back in January harassed and arbitrarily arrested sex workers and patrons at gay bars, and now are threatening to arrest all those found outside designated areas. And, what is even more worrisome, neighbors have also echoed those messages, as angry mobs threw stones at transvestites on Monday, November 18.

Please remember that modern societies are diverse, encompassing many communities. Authorities should lead the way towards dialogue and understanding across diversity, based on the principle, articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that "all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights." When the State calls one identity moral and legitimate and others evil, immoral or criminal, it violates the basic principle of equality.

Police or local authorities have no right to exclude a particular population from certain sectors of the city. Freedom of movement is a basic human right. If businesses are affected by sex work happening in the area, as seems to be the case along Boulevard Morazán, then your duty is to bring together all the parties involved and engage them in dialogue, in an objective and respectful way. As a public servant, you must attend to the needs of all different sectors of the population, regardless of your opinion about them.

Since the "red zone" project will affect sex workers the most, they should be an integral part of the debates around it. To decide anything without their voices being heard would be an anti-democratic and abusive action. Moreover, it will create even further unrest and divisions among the community of San Pedro Sula.

We are aware of efforts by the local gay organization Comunidad Gay San Pedrana to arrange a meeting with you to discuss the situation. We encourage you to make all necessary arrangements for that meeting to take place as soon as possible, and to consider how transvestites and female sex workers can be integrated to the San Pedro Sula community in such a way that the dignity and rights of all are respected.

Sincerely,

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In San Pedro Sula, Honduras, about 100 transvestite sex workers have been working for some time along five blocks of Boulevard Morazán. The local authorities want to relocate them to another area known as "El Tamarindo", near the railways. Neither the transvestites nor Comunidad Gay Sanpedrana, the gay organization that works with them, have been consulted by the authorities about the move, scheduled for implementation from December 1st onwards.

Deputy Major Osmán Bautista has told the Hondurean press that the main reason behind the relocation is the intended transformation of the area where transvestites now work into a tourist attraction. He also mentions that there are many hotels, fast food spots and restaurants in Boulevard Morazán that are scarcely patronized, due to the high number of transvestites and female sex workers in the area.

Municipal Judge Alvaro Aguilar stated, "Evil must be attacked. Transvestites and prostitutes should not be allowed to perform immoral acts." He also announced that any transvestite found outside the designated relocation area would be arrested.

On Tuesday, November 12, 300 neighbors from the area intended for relocation of the transvestites and female sex workers met with the authorities to reject the measure.

On Monday, November 19, some neighbors threw stones at a group of transvestites, declaring that "if the authorities do not want you around here, neither do we." Elkyn Suarez, leader of the transvestite community in San Pedro Sula, submitted a formal complaint to the Human Rights Department of the local Prosecutor Office, demanding protection for her community and condemning "violence, discrimination and homophobia on the part of the authorities".

For information on previous events, please see our Action Alert: "Honduras: Transvestites and Gay Men Threatened with Expulsion from City. Act Now to Protect Freedom of Movement,"

IN THE LAW

The right to freedom from discrimination is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its Articles 2 and 7, by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in its Articles 2 and 26, and by the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights (IACHR) in its Article 1.

The right to freedom from arbitrary arrest is protected by the UDHR (Article 9), the ICCPR (Article 8) and by the IACHR (Article 7).

The right to freedom of movement is protected by the UDHR (Article 13), the ICCPR (Article 12) and the IACHR (Article 22).

The right to work is protected by the UDHR (Article 23) and by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 6).

The United Nations Human Rights Committee affirmed in its decision in Toonen v Australia (1994) that existing protections against discrimination in Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Numerous other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations have subsequently condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation. The UN Committee on Economic and Social Rights has made a similar observation, in its General Comment 14 on the right to health- to be applied to all economic, social and cultural rights.

Honduras has ratified the ICESCR in 1981, the ICCPR in 1997 and the IAHRC in 1977. The UDHR is considered customary law for all Member States of the United Nations, including Honduras.

###