One of the biggest challenges facing LGBT people in the world today is the stigma that surrounds queer identities. The idea that LGBT people are less than is widely circulated and can result in some serious outcomes when left unchallenged.
That stigma is one thing that holds LGBT people back from their rights, with those in charge of the decision (whether that be voters or legislators) thinking they don’t deserve them. In other more serious cases, the belief that LGBT people are less than can lead to them being attacked or even murdered.
It’s that last statistic that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in charge of figuring out: just how many LGBT people in The Americas are harmed because of their identities? Having now released the latest batch of figures, their results are more jarring than ever.
According to their report, 594 people who were believed to have been LGBT were murdered (with a further 176 people having survived “serious attacks”) in The Americas from the beginning of 2013 to March, 2014. The Americas includes every country from Canada and the United States to Brazil, Peru and every other country in the southern continent.
The IACHR further broke those figures down, explaining that transgender women and gay men were more likely to be attacked, young people especially. And, of those transgender women, a massive 80% of them were under 35.
And it’s not just ordinary citizens who are responsible for these heinous hate crimes either but government officials are just as guilty too. IACHR revealed that “trans women and other gender non-conforming persons are often targeted by law enforcement agents, who tend to act upon prejudice and assume they are criminals.”
So what can be done? Harsher punishments for hate crimes and a larger focus on changing prejudices and opinions would be two massive stepping stones but an overhaul in reporting is also needed. The IACHR explained in their report that much of their statistics are compiled from media reports and data from activist organisations as many countries in The Americas do not report this type of crime as a hate crime (and rather, it gets reported as a standard murder). This isn’t a failure on the IACHR’s part as they can only report on what they know, but it is unfortunate that governments don’t find it necessary to report on the discrimination that their populations face.