Author Topic: Guatemala: Fear for safety: Sulma, other transvestite sex workers, and activists  (Read 3070 times)

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Amnesty International URGENT ACTION

Guatemala: Fear for safety: Sulma, other transvestite sex workers in Guatemala City and members of Integral Sexuality AIDS Support Organisation (OASIS)

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 34/044/2005

UA 325/05 Fear for safety 21 December

GUATEMALA Sulma (legal name Kevin Josué Alegria Robles)
Other transvestite sex workers in Guatemala City
Other members of the Organización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al
SIDA, Integral Sexuality AIDS Support Organisation (OASIS)

Killed: Paulina, aged 22 (legal name Juan Pablo Méndez
Cartagena), OASIS worker

Transvestite sex worker Sulma (legal name Kevin Robles) was shot in the head,
allegedly by police, on 17 December, and remains in hospital in a serious
condition. Another transvestite sex worker was killed in the attack. As Sulma
witnessed the killing, the attackers are likely to attempt to silence her, but
the authorities have not responded to requests to give her protection.

In the early hours of 17 December Sulma was in Zone One of Guatemala City, at
the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 11th Street, with another transvestite
sex worker, Paulina (legal name Juan Pablo Méndez Cartagena). Four men on
motorbikes, who witnesses say were in police uniform, ordered them to stop, and
then shot them. Paulina was hit twice in the head: she died minutes later.
Sulma was hit three times but survived, and is in a serious but stable
condition in hospital. She can only speak with difficulty, as one of the
bullets reportedly smashed all her front teeth.

Several other transvestite sex workers witnessed the shooting, but are
reportedly too scared to give testimony, fearing police reprisals. Police have
reportedly been patrolling the streets near the shooting, in an apparent effort
to intimidate the witnesses.

Since 1999 Sulma has been member of, and worked as a volunteer for, the
Guatemala City-based Organización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al
SIDA, Integral Sexuality AIDS Support Organisation (OASIS), which works on the
prevention of HIV/AIDS and provides support to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender (LGBT) people. Paulina had started paid work at OASIS in 2004 and
since then had only occasionally had to make money as a sex worker.

OASIS has requested police protection for Sulma in hospital and the Human
Rights Ombudsman’s office has reportedly requested protection from the Interior
Ministry. However, to date no protection has been provided.

The LGBT community in Guatemala regularly faces attacks and threats.
Transvestite sex workers have been particularly vulnerable to attack. Police
officers are often allegedly involved, raising fears of a clandestine policy of
"social cleansing" within the police force, intended to drive sex workers off
the streets. According to OASIS, this year seven transvestite sex workers have
been killed on the streets of Guatemala City. Police have intimidated OASIS
members many times in an attempt to stop them from carrying out their
legitimate work of promoting the rights of Guatemala's LGBT community. In May
2003 two men attempted to kidnap OASIS director Jorge López, but he managed to
escape from the car they had forced him into. OASIS has often publicly
condemned the police for abuses against male, female and transvestite sex

In June 2005 Guatemala's Evangelical and Catholic Churches proposed a law that
would prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Since then, the number of threats
and attacks against the LGBT community has increased. On 7 October transvestite
sex worker Michelle (legal name Juan Manuel Villa Soto) died after she was so
severely beaten that her head was crushed.

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