Trans Women in Mexico Take to Activism as Murders Go Unpunished

Mexico has become the second deadliest country for transgender people — especially transgender women — with 261 transgender women murdered from 2013 to 2018, 53 of those occurring last year, prompting activism nationally.

On September 29th, 2016, Kenya Cueva’s friend and fellow sex worker, Paola Buenrostro, was shot and killed in front of her, and the shooter went free a couple days later. Following Buenrostro’s murder, Cueva quit sex work — a field many trans women are forced into because employers often refuse to hire them, activists say — and founded the organization Casa de Muñecas to campaign for protections for trans women. Today, she is one of the most visible transgender activists among a growing group of women seeking justice from Mexico’s government.

“If I don’t do it, the government isn’t going to do it,” Cuevas said. “And if I wait for the government to do it, how many more people are going to be killed?”

Activist group ProDiana, which is led by Diana Sánchez Barrios, has also played a major role in trans activism within Mexico. Pushed for in part by ProDiana, Mexico City became the first place in the country to let transgender people legally change their gender and names on their birth certificates, a law that has since been adopted by six of Mexico’s 31 states.

Following all of this, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office December 1st, 2018, has promised the Mexican government will take out effective investigations into LGBTQ+ hate crimes, but the trend continues. In the first four months of 2019 alone, sixteen transgender women were reported killed, and at least six more since then, according to the Associated Press. Nearly all of these killings go unsolved and unpunished, with less than 3% of the killings of LGBTQ+ individuals resulting in any convictions since 2013.

Most recently, on August 13th, a trans woman died after being stabbed eight times in Mexico City. Her killer escaped and the police have named no suspects since.

Alexandra Haas, director of the National Council to Prevent Discrimination, said the Obrador administration aims to retrain local prosecutors and police in handling cases involving transgender sex workers. She said the government is working with the Attorney General’s office to develop and establish unified protocols across Mexico.

“It’s very important to us that we make it so local prosecutors take these cases seriously,” Haas said.

Sources: LA Times 9/9/19; AP 9/10/19

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