By Anastasia Moloney
BOGOTA, July 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Americas' top human rights commission on Thursday called on Honduras to investigate growing violence against trans people in the Central American nation, where three transgender women were killed in the first week of this month alone.
The Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said more must be done to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people in Honduras who face ongoing abuse, and to prosecute crimes against them.
Twenty-one LGBT+ people have been murdered since January, according to local watchdog group Cattrachas, up from 18 in the same period last year. More than 300 gay and trans people have been murdered since 2009, the LGBT+ rights group said.
"The IACHR has followed with serious concern the increase in violence against trans women in Honduras," the human rights arm of the 35-member Organization of American States said in a statement.
Three transgender women, including a TV show host and a LGBT+ rights activist, have been gunned down in three Honduran cities in July. The IACHR said police have arrested two possible suspects in the murder of 40-year-old activist Bessy Ferrera.
"These acts of violence are not isolated," the IACHR warned, adding that during a 2018 visit it observed that "LGBTI people live in a context characterized by frequent physical, psychological and sexual violence against them, in addition to widespread impunity in those cases."
Marcela Laitano, head of public policy at the Honduran human rights ministry, said it has asked judicial authorities to conduct a "prompt investigation" into the recent murders.
She said the ministry is working with various government authorities and local rights groups to promote "a culture of respect" and to improve access to health, education, jobs and political participation for LGBT+ people.
Training courses for civil servants on "sexual diversity" have also started.
"It's work that we've just begun, and we hope that this can bear much fruit and that these hate crimes can be also be eradicated," Laitano told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
An entrenched machismo culture and conservative religious values in Honduras fuel discrimination against LGBT+ people, stymieing efforts to change attitudes in the Catholic-majority nation, she said.
"It's much to do with the discourse of hate, of discrimination, prejudice that exists in society," Laitano said.
The ministry has also worked with LGBT+ activists to advance a bill before congress that would allow trans people to change their gender identity legally, she said.
"Society needs to prepare itself to start this debate," Laitano said.
Cattrachas head Indyra Mendoza noted LGBT+ people have virtually no legal rights in Honduras, where gay marriage and adoption are banned.
This month's murders of trans women caused little outcry or condemnation from society at large in Honduras, she said.
"There's a great indifference among society," Mendoza said. "In fact our bodies are disposable, and we are also disposable."
(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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