As the LGBTQ community in Honduras mourns the murder of important leader and human rights defenders Rene Martinez, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the killing on Wednesday, calling on Honduras to act fast to tackle the systematic violence against LGBTQ people in the Central American country, especially activists.
Martinez was confirmed dead, killed by strangulation and asphyxiation, on June 3, days after his family reported him missing in the second largest city of San Pedro Sula, where he was a prominent leader in the LGBTQ community who worked in violence prevention outreach programs.
IACHR said in a statement Wednesday that the killing further highlights “the pattern of violence against defenders of the rights of LGBT persons in Honduras.”
According to IACHR, Honduran LGBTQ rights defenders are particularly vulnerable to violence and attacks due to a “combination of factors” related to their identities and activism that “challenge traditional social structures around sexuality and gender which are deeply rooted in the dominant cultures of the countries across the region.”
Violence against leaders and members of Honduras’ LGBTQ community, including murder, has spiked in the wake of the U.S.-backed 2009 coup that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya and paved the way for a downward spiral of rampant human rights abuses, corruption, and impunity.
Research from the Index on Censorship, published by SAGE, found that a total of 215 LBGTQ people were killed between 2009 and 2015, with 37 of those deaths last year alone.
According to a recent report by a coalition of Honduran human rights organizations, LGBTQ people continue to suffer systematic discrimination that affects their personal and professional lives and their ability to access basic services. The report also pointed to a fundamental lack of education around sexual orientation and gender identity in Honduras that helps perpetuate homophobia and other heteronormative and patriarchal attitudes.
Martinez, who according to local media was a well-known member of the ruling conservative National Party, is the latest in a long list of LGBTQ victims. Beloved LGBTQ leaders Walter Trochez, murdered in 2009 after being outspoken about how the coup increased homophobic hate crimes in Honduras, and Erick Martinez Avila, murdered in 2012 after becoming a congressional candidate with the left-wing LIBRE party, have both become symbols of the systematic criminalization and lethal violence against LGBTQ activists.
IACHR urged the government to “immediately adopt urgent measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and security to LGBT human rights defenders and, where necessary, their family members.”
The statement comes as the LGBTQ community in the United States suffered the brutal massacre of 49 people, mostly Latinos, at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, fueling calls for the country to grapple with problems of homophobia, toxic masculinity, and gun violence.
The call also comes amid increased international attention on the human rights situation in Honduras in the wake of the murder of renowned Indigenous activist Berta Caceres. Solidarity activists protested in U.S. cities and at least 10 other countries on Wednesday to demand justice for the slain leader, whose case has become a hallmark of state sanctioned repression and criminalization in Honduras.
Caceres' murder spurred U.S. representatives to introduce a bill to the House this week aimed at putting an end to millions of dollars in security funding for Honduras, where corrupt forces have a role in operating death squads, upholding impunity, and perpetuating a grave human rights disaster.