Honduras: Transvestites And Gay Men Threatened With Expulsion From City

Act Now To Protect Freedom Of Movement

SUMMARY

Gay mens and transgender people have been targeted for harassment in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the country's industrial center and second largest city, after Honduras' new President, Ricardo Maduro, announced a "zero tolerance for crime and delinquency" program in January. Bar raids, arbitrary detention, and expulsion from the dowtown area have become regular occurences in the lives of Honduran transvestites and gay men.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) joins local and regional human rights activists in condemning these restrictions and the resulting brutality.

ACTION

Write now to Honduran authorities to protest mistreatment of transvestites and gay men and to call for a dialogue between the parties.

Please write to:

Mayor Oscar Kilgore
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Tel/Fax 504-553-4646
504-558-1995
e-mail: alcaldia@netsys.hn
Municipal Judge Alvaro Aguilar Frenzel
Tel: 504-557-5700
Fax: 504-557-6477

Copies should be sent to:

Jorge Flores
Comunidad Gay San Pedrana
Tel: 504-555-3190
504-553-4362
e-mail: comunidadgay@yahoo.com
Richard Stern, Ph.D.
Director, Agua Buena Human Rights Association
San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel/Fax 506-234-2411
rastern@sol.racsa.co.cr

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Sir,

I/we write to express concern over the series of bar raids and arbitrary arrests of transvestites and gay men in San Pedro Sula that have taken place during the past several weeks, as part of the new "zero tolerance for crime and delinquency" program announced in January by President Ricardo Maduro.

On January 12th, police raided a bar called "Boys." Twelve people were arrested and held for 24 hours before being released. The bar never reopened. On April 24th, 27 people were arrested at First Avenue in the San Pedro city center, and charged with offending public morality. Activists report that Mayor Oscar Kilgore has ordered city police to detain "transvestites and effeminate looking people" if they cross the railroad tracks dividing the city's south side from its downtown area. They also claim transvestites have been picked up in police cars, taken away from the city center, and told that they cannot return.

Please remember:

  • Being a transvestite or a gay man is not a crime. A particular mode of dress or a "mannerism" is a public expression, and hence protected. The right to free expression is a basic human right, recognized as such by international treaties that Honduras has ratified -- such the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Inter-American Human Rights Convention.
  • Modern societies are diverse, encompassing many communities. Authorities should lead the way towards dialogue and understanding across diversity, based on the idea that --as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states-- "all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights." When the State calls one identity "moral" and legitimate and others immoral or criminal, it violates the basic principle of equality.
  • The concept of "public morality" invoked by the San Pedro Sula police in arresting transvestites and gay men is ambiguous and usually enforced against communities that are already vulnerable or excluded. No modern, complex society can operate under a single, exclusive idea of what constitutes "morality." Those in power impose their own idea of morality upon others, a fact testifying to power relationships and not to the quality of the "morality" itself. By contrast, democratic societies employ dialogue and negotiation to arrive at inclusive understandings of what can and cannot be restricted--using the basic principle that the law targets only what harms others, and taking into consideration the needs of all communities.
  • Police or local authorities have no right to exclude a particular population from certain sectors of the city. Freedom of movement is also a basic right.

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 gay men can be integrated to the San Pedro Sula community in such a way that the rights of all are respected.

Sincerely,

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

(The following report was written by Richard Stern of the Agua Buena Human Rights Association in Costa Rica)

Jorge Flores, Director of the Non-governmental Association "Comunidad Gay San Pedrana" (Gay Community of San Pedro) has denounced a series of bar raids and other actions taken during the past several weeks, since Honduras's new President Ricardo Maduro took office.

San Pedro Sula Mayor Oscar Kilgore ordered a raid on the city's only gay bar, "Boys," on January 12th. Twelve people including Jorge Flores and several staff members from "Comunidad Gay," were arrested and held for 24 hours and then released. The bar never reopened. The raid was part of the new "zero tolerance for crime and delinquency" program announced in January by President Maduro and implemented by Mayor Kilgore.

Kilgore has also ordered city police to detain "transvestites and effeminate looking people" if they cross the railroad tracks that divide the city's south side from its downtown area. "We are picked up in police cars and taken away from the center of the city and told that we cannot return," said Marlene, a 24 year old transvestite sex worker. Prostitution is legal in Honduras. Also, the government has announced the formation of a "reeducation" program for prostitutes, and several transvestites as well as female prostitutes have been transported involuntarily to be enrolled.

Municipal Judge Alvaro Aguilar Frenzel denied the group's allegations regarding the Bar Raid, claiming that no one has been arrested in bar raids and that the only arrests on record have taken place in the street in downtown San Pedro Sula. "We have people eating dinner with their children in restaurants who have complained to the police department about nearly naked men dressed as women on the street trying to sell their bodies," said Frenzel. However, Frenzel provided documentation related to arrests that were made on First Avenue in downtown San Pedro Sula last April 24th, based on a law against offending "public morality." 27 people were arrested on that date.

"We are not the criminals and delinquents, just a convenient scapegoat for the government," said Flores. "They are violating our rights." He indicated that the group is seeking a meeting with municipal officials to discuss the situation, and hopes for support from the international community.

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 freedom of expression is protected by the UDHR (Article 19), the ICCPR (Article 19) and the IACHR (Article 13).

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