Human Rights and Gender Based Violence

Published: July 18, 2016

by Michael Clark

Deeply ingrained cultural gender norms put the lives of trans and non-gender conforming people at risk for discrimination, violence and other violations of human rights. The three panelists the “Human Rights and Gender Based Violence” session of the No More Lip Service, Trans Access, Equality & Rights Now pre-conference highlighted research in the United States and Kenya.  Alesandra Ogeto of Jinsiangu presented research on the rigid gender beliefs of Kenya and the violence against trans persons that results from that. One concern she brought up is that transgender issues are often lumped together with MSM/gay or bisexual needs and the needs of trans need to be addressed separately. Additionally, the reporting of violence against trans persons is rare, particularly among sex workers, due to stigma. In fact, the police are often the ones most likely to perpetrate the violence. Ultimately, more research into the community in Kenya is needed because much of the data is simply not there.

Research from Human Rights Watch looked at law enforcement in the United States and the HIV risk that poses for transgender women. In the US, the majority of hate crime homicides are against transgender women and 67% of those are against people of color. Data shows that in California, 60% of female transgender prisoners that were housed in men’s prisons have been victims of sexual assault. The presenter emphasized this common practice by law enforcement is a violation of human rights and it must end.

Carlos Rodriguez-Diaz from the University of Puerto Rico echoed much of the finding of the prior two presenters and suggested that stigma was probably the greatest determinate of transgender health. In addition to transgender stigma, HIV stigma is a fundamental exercise of social power, not the fear of the contagion itself. As such, it is estimated that 20% of trans women in Puerto Rico are HIV positive. Of those, there is approximately a 50% mortality.

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