As pride month reaches its culmination, LGBTI people across the world are participating in marches and events proudly showing they exist and are part of our communities. In many countries, however, LGBTI people are still discriminated against and human rights defenders working so that LGBTI people can enjoy their fundamental rights face threats, attacks and criminalisation.
Arcoíris is an organisation working with the LGBTI community in Honduras. Members of the Association have been the victims of surveillance, harassment, detentions, assaults, robberies and thefts, threats, sexual violence and even murder; attacks which aim to destabilise the organization. From June 2015 to March 2016, six members of Arcoíris were killed in Honduras. Despite the risks they face, Arcoíris is committed to empowering, informing and challenging discrimination and stigmatisation against the LGBTI community in Honduras. They provide life-saving support for LGBTI activists giving them a safe space away from aggression and discrimination, carrying out research and offering workshops.
As a result of the risks Arcoíris face PBI has been providing an international presence to members of the association. This involves providing international observation during public activities, security workshops and presense at regional activities. PBI provides protective accompaniment to Arcoíris and is is committed to continuing our support for LGBTI communities in some of the most dangerous countries around the world. Now more than ever, we need you to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with human rights defenders. PBI UK Director Susi Bascon travelled to Honduras in January 2019 and interviewed Arcoiris HRDs. These are some of the testimonies of their courageous activists.organisations like Arcoíris.
Donny Reyes is the co-ordinator of Arcoíris, he explains the dangers the community faces:
"The biggest problem that we face is the violence of the state security forces towards the LGBT community: the armed forces, the police, the criminal investigation police, military police, municipal police. The two research studies that Arco Iris carried out and other organizations have also done reflect the same pattern. Since 2009 when we did the first research on hate crime we realised that more than 60% of hate crimes committed against us were carried out by those forces who should be guaranteeing our safety."
Jio Cordova works on the Muñequitas project for trans women. She tells us how she got involved in Arcoíris and what this meant for her:
"They took me to Arcoíris. That’s where I met Donny Reyes. I told Donny about the problems I was having at home. They helped me, they supported me so that I wouldn’t continue suffering. They helped me a lot. […] It changed my life. I want to help others like they helped me. I work for the organisation now. I listen to the trans girls, I support them when they are attacked by the police."
There have been three attempts on Jio’s life, all by members of the armed police. She describes one of these attacks:
"It was a white car which stopped and they started to shoot. One of the girls was hit in the arm and they shot me in the back. I was left lying on the ground as I couldn’t even move my feet, I had no feeling in them. The man got out of the car and they were all dressed in military uniforms but they had their faces covered and with no names or other emblems. I didn’t move my eyes because I thought this man is going to put a bullet through my head. So I played dead and I didn’t blink. When the man saw that I wasn’t even blinking and his friends called him to go and kill others who were still protesting, so he got in the car and they drove off and he didn’t fire the second shot."
Esdra Yaveth is the co-ordinator of LITOS, a lesbian and bisexual women’s group in Arcoíris. Esdra told us about hate crimes against the LGBT community:
"They killed lesbians, gay men and trans women in equal numbers. It was like a fashion to kill a gay man, then came trans women and later lesbians. But the attacks on our community started to level out. And that was because we were becoming more visible in demonstrations and mobilisations. And we were demanding changes to the law, proposing laws that protected the rights of the LGBT community because our rights have been stolen for many years."
Nallely Paola co-ordinates the Muñequitas project for trans women at Arcoíris. One of the campaigns is for recognition of trans identity:
“We’re campaigning for the gender identity law. What we want is an identity that identifies us as trans women. We don’t want special privileges. We don’t want an ID that tells us that we are women. What we want is to have our right to be trans people respected. Having this identity would help us to overcome all those problems that we have, legal problems. For example if you go to open a bank account, they begin to question you, saying that’s not your identity. They say you are not that person. We can’t give you the money because you are not that person when I know that I am that person. It’s difficult because we can’t integrate into society, not because we don’t want to but because the society denies us this right which we are entitled to as citizens. […] I face danger, I am at risk but sometimes […] Whatever happens we are going to make an impact, it may just be little but we are going to do it. And bit by bit we are going to raise ourselves up."
PBI provides protective accompaniment to Arcoíris and is committed to continuing our support for LGBTI communities in some of the most dangerous countries around the world. Now more than ever, we need you to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with human rights defenders and organisations like Arcoíris.