Following a wave of violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly has passed a law establishing increased penalties for hate crimes. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Director for the Americas, emphasized that this law “should be a catalyst for a series of concrete measures to stop the alarming and growing wave of attacks against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transexual community, who suffer grave threats and abuses on a daily basis.”
Some recent examples of violence against the LGBT community include:
- The May 31 murder of Francela Méndez, a transgender woman active in the LGBT rights organization Alejandría Collective Association and a member of the Salvadoran Network of Human Rights Defenders.
- The June 18 murder of Jasmine Barrera, a transgender woman and member of the Alejandría Collective Association.
- The brutal beating of Alex Peña, leader of the Association of Transsexual Men of the Salvador, by police agents following the San Salvador Gay Pride march on June 27.
Unfortunately, the continuing epidemic of violence against women in the El Salvador demonstrates that passing a law is not enough. In its 2014 report On the Brink of Death, Amnesty found that the 2012 Special Integral Law for for a Life Free from Violence for Women was not being properly implemented because of a lack of funding and bias against women among government officials, including judges. As Guevara-Rosas stated, “El Salvador need an integral policy to stop hate crimes.”
Laws to protect women, members of the LGBT community, and other vulnerable groups are important steps. These laws will have little impact, however, unless they are fully implemented. Amnesty International also calls upon the Salvadoran government to fully investigate crimes against the LGBT community and to punish those found responsible.
Photo: Gay rights activists in a demonstration on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in San Salvador, May 17, 2014. JOSE CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images