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LGBT+ murders at 'alarming' levels in Latin America - study

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Four LGBT+ people are murdered every day in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to “alarming” new research released on Thursday by a regional network of gay rights groups.

At least 1,300 LGBT+ people have been murdered in the region in the past five years, with Colombia, Mexico and Honduras accounting for nearly 90 percent of all deaths, according to data collected by the network of 10 groups.

“At the bottom of these violent deaths of LGBT people is exclusion, and sometimes total exclusion,” said Marcela Sanchez, head of Colombia Diversa, a Bogota-based LGBT+ rights group that is part of the network.

“Many of these deaths do not matter to anyone, not even to their own families,” Sanchez told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Regional Information Network on Violence against LGBTI People in Latin America and the Caribbean said it was the first time data had been gathered in nine countries across the region to show the scale of the problem.

The research aimed to draw government attention to the violence as well as raising awareness, Sanchez said.

Data showed the majority of victims were young gay men aged 18 to 25, who were most likely to be murdered in their homes, followed by transgender women killed in the street.

In Colombia’s capital Bogota, criminal gangs have targeted gay men, believing them to be wealthier than heterosexual men because they do not have children, the report said.

Nearly 12% of all killings were carried out by people known to their victims.

The countries in the study have high overall levels of crime and gang-related drug violence. Murder rates in Mexico, Colombia and Honduras are at least three times the global average of 6.1 per 100,000 people, according to the United Nations.

LGBT+ people who have been murdered often had a history of abuse and discrimination in and outside of the home, Sanchez said.

Parts of South America have made progress on LGBT+ rights in the past decade, the report said, including laws allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

But despite legal protections, violence against the LGBT+ community remains rife, it said, calling it a “cultural problem”.

The growing influence of evangelical Christian groups in recent years, particularly in Central America, have stymied efforts to change attitudes to LGBT+ rights, Sanchez said.

Most evangelical groups are critical of gay rights and believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

“It’s important to take into account the rise or hardening of fundamentalist, religious discourse,” Sanchez said.