On Jan 7, 2016 Tagg Magazine reported: There have been a lot of recent discussions about the treatment of LGBTQI persons in countries like Syria and Russia. However, the challenges and violence facing our community in our own backyard have been continuously overlooked on the main stage.
We spoke with Nicole Santamaria, an intersex transsexual woman currently in the midst of her asylum process, and her attorney, Cori Alonso-Yoder of Whitman-Walker Health, to better understand the obstacles our community is facing on their path to safety.
Currently, Santamaria’s home country of El Salvador has zero protections for its LGBTQI population. There are no legal protections from discrimination or hate crimes, as seen during last year’s Pride event when Aldo Alexander Peña was nearly beaten to death by police. The mixture of a post-war economy plus machista and gang cultures has made both women and the queer community particular targets.
“The situation for LGBTQI communities in countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are really, really bad,” explains Santamaria, “I was telling Cori that a bookkeeper from my Colectivo was murdered this year on May 31, but there is no kind of willing from the police and there is no kind of willing from the government to solve these cases.”
Not only are cases going unsolved; the police have been direct perpetrators of the violence. “When I was working as an activist in El Salvador, I made many complaints against the police because they were the ones that were prosecuting the lesbian and transgender women. And they are putting them in jail and they are raping them in jail,” says Santamaria. She also states that when crimes are reported, the police are leaking their personal information, like addresses and phone numbers, directly to the gangs, which target them again.