Two transgender women and a gay man were murdered in Guatemala in three separate attacks. All of which occurred within one week during Pride month.

Andrea González, a 28-year-old activist and leader of the organisation Otrans Reinas de la Noche (Queens of the Night) was shot only metres from her home in Guatemala city on June 11. In the months leading up to her death, González told authorities that she had been receiving death threats. 

Cecy Ixpatá also received death threats before her murder on June 9, two days before the death of González. Ixpatá was another member of Otrans and was attacked by two men in Salamá, a city 50 miles north of Guatemala City. She died in a local hospital from injuries sustained in the attack.

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In Morales, a district 150 miles north-east of Guatemala city, 22-year-old gay man José Manuel Vargas Villeda was also shot and killed on June 14. 

Spate Of Killings of LGBTQI+ People

The assailants are yet to be identified for the three murders, which brings the total killings of known LGBTIQ+ people in Guatemala to a total of at least 13 this year, compared to at least 19 in 2020.

The murders of González, Ixpatá and Vargas Villeda are especially poignant as they took place during Pride month, a time of celebration and visibility for LGBTQI+ communities and allies. LGBTIQ+ activist, Aldo Dávila, told The Guardian that he didn’t believe the timing of the killings was a coincidence. 

US vice president, Kamala Harris had visited Guatemala in June and had urged Guatemalans not to migrate to the United States. According to Human Rights Watch, many LGBT Guatemalans seek asylum to escape violence and persecution.

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According to Cristian González Cabrera, LGBT rights researcher at HRW, authorities need to investigate the killings properly and establish whether these were hate crime, if they want to prevent 2021 from becoming “one of the deadliest years for gender and sexual minorities in Guatemala”.

No Law To Protect Against Discrimination

As it stands, Guatemala has no legislation that protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender-identity. And a Life and Family Protection Bill currently pending in the Guatemalan Congress would see discrimination against LGBTQI+ people excused as ‘freedom of conscience and expression’. 

These lack of protections are alarming in a region where the life expectancy of transgeneder women is cited as 35

“The high number of murders and other violent attacks against transgender women in Guatemala is the result of a hostile and violent environment with deep roots in a racist, patriarchal, and transphobic society. Unfortunately, this is the situation that transgender women have to face every day in Guatemala, Central America, and throughout Latin America,” Hivos said in a statement.

According to Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvT), 350 trans and gender-diverse people were murdered worldwide between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2020. These murders have been characterised by The Human Rights Campaign as part of an ongoing “epidemic of violence” against trans and gender-diverse people.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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