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Gender & Sexual Solidarity: News & Updates

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The Pacific port city of Buenaventura has a long history of violent conflict, which led to it being dubbed Colombia's "capital of horror". Since 1988, armed gangs have battled for territorial control of drug routes out of the port and carried out gruesome dismemberments in "casas de pique" (Spanish for chop houses). Buenaventura is now suffering a new wave of violence, and midwives like Feliciana Hurtado put themselves at risk by confronting armed fighters to help women living in violent areas deliver babies.
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Widespread violence continued to impact Colombia’s most vulnerable and marginalised communities and social groups in 2020, according to the annual report on the country by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report also found alarming levels of inequality, with women badly affected, and lack of access to essential services, with some regions lacking clean water and medical care. In many instances, the Colombian state has failed to address security and humanitarian concerns, particularly in regions long impacted by conflict, structural poverty and historic state abandonment. The global pandemic also impacted on the human rights of the population. Among its recommendations, the OHCHR prioritised full implementation of the peace agreement in addressing the endemic violence which has claimed hundreds of lives since late 2016.
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The Latin America Working Group (based in Washington, DC) has been monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights across the region. This blog is focused specifically on the impact of the pandemic on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. The following are brief summaries that capture the situation for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and to call attention to the lack of support and urgency behind addressing this violence by these governments.
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The humanitarian crisis in Honduras found international attention this month as the first and biggest migration caravan since the corona pandemic took off in mid-January. A combination of a pandemic, two hurricanes hitting Honduras in later 2020, an abysmal response by the JOH regime and a lack of perspective among the corruption and human rights violation left again thousands of Honduras without any other option that trying to leave. Congress also showed again how it rather worsens the situation of minorities and vulnerablized groups by changing the constitution to forever ban same-sex marriage and abortions instead of using its power to improve the situation of Honduras. There were also setbacks in the Berta Cáceres case and the Guapinol case. Further corruption cases were undermined, meanwhile Honduras dropped further in an international corruption index. Last but not least, JOH’s drug trafficking links prominently reappeared in the national and international headlines thanks to newly released court documents from New York. Welcome to another month in Honduras.
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Four-year-old María Ángel Molina was recently found dead in rural Colombia, making her one of 18 confirmed cases of femicide this year- with 13 more cases pending verification. Rights groups are concerned about the safety of women and girls, particularly during lockdowns due to coronavirus which forces them indoors with abusive men. Femicide Foundation Colombia, an NGO that provides support for women and tracks gender-based violence, in 2020 confirmed 229 femicides, of which 35 were girls, and is trying to verify a further 260 cases. Horrifying murders of women and girls are not uncommon in Colombia, and are sometimes committed by authority figures. In June 2020, scandal engulfed the military after seven soldiers gang-raped a 13-year-old indigenous girl. “We know that this is not an isolated issue, it is structural,” said Aida Quilcue, at the time a human rights adviser at the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).
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IRTF has been connecting with the LGBTQ+ community in El Salvador especially since we co-organized the first-ever LGBTQ+ delegation from Ohio to Central America in 2013. While visiting El Salvador, we have become friends with many transgender persons (particularly transgender women). Here in the US, we’ve also gotten to know many who have fled to the US seeking refuge and asylum. This new “cooperative agreement” makes an almost impossible asylum process even more impossible. But there might be hope: US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to terminate the deeply flawed agreement.

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