Why we need to step up the campaign for rights for all in Central America

Natalia Marsicovetere Inequality, Rights

In our second blog for Pride month, Natalia Marsicovetere highlights how widespread violence and a growing backlash against rights for LGBTQIA+ people mean that communities need to mobilise to protect human rights.

Image from Oxfam Central America’s Pride campaign this year

As in many parts of the world, Central America has seen a backlash against LGBTQIA+ rights and people in the past few years. Rates of violence against the community are on the increase and conservative groups continue to lobby for discriminatory policies in a context where there are often minimal or non-existent legal protections for LGBTQIA+ rights.

A climate of prejudice is still prevalent in mainstream society across the region. In 2021, Oxfam published a report on violence against LGBTQIA+ people in the region, shedding light on the lack of protections, access to justice and state services that this population faces amid increasing rates of violence.

According to the annual report of the Asociación Lambda’s Observatory for human rights and violence against sexual orientation and gender identity, there were 147 recorded cases of “day-to-day violence” (including aggressions, discrimination, threats and extortions) in Guatemala in 2022. Of those affected, 35 reported they were intending to leave the country due to this violence. There were also at least 29 recorded cases of murder of LGBTQIA+ people in Guatemala 2022 as well as two disappearances, and to date, there have been at least 10 documented LGBTQIA+ murders in 2023.

At the same time, Honduras and El Salvador continue to have the highest relative rates of trans murders in the world as of 2022, with an average of 11.8 and 9.29 murders per million inhabitants in the past decade. 

According to el Observatorio de la Red Lesbica Cattrachas, 2022 saw an increase of violence in Honduras against LGBTQIA+ people compared to 2021. Last year, 43 murders and two cases of disappearances were reported. Yet only 8 of these cases have an open criminal investigation. In El Salvador, during 2022, there were 203 reported cases of human rights violations of LGBTQIA+ people in the country.

Despite a landmark verdict from the Interamerican Court of Human Rights holding the Honduran state responsible for the murder of trans rights activist Vicky Hernández, and mandating measures to protect and support trans people, the Honduran state has still not acted. For instance there is still no recognition of legal trans identity, as well as the other measures demanded by the court.

El Salvador has also been slow to bring in protections for trans rights. Despite the Supreme Court of El Salvador ruling in 2022 that legislators should bring in laws to enable trans people to legally change their names, this has yet to make it on to the legislative agenda to this date.

In December 2022, the state of El Salvador also suspended its participation in the UN LGBTI Core Group, a group of international organizations and states from around the world who work on LGBTQIA+ issues.

During Pride month, as we celebrate LGBTQIA+ identities and the history of our fight for equality, we must continue pushing for progressive change in societal beliefs, legislation and protection from discrimination, violence and economic inequality. This Pride month, it is time to call allies to action to allies to support and step up for LGBTQIA+ rights in Central America.

Until there are equal rights for all of us, we will continue to work alongside communities, allies and LGBTQIA+ people to end inequality.


Natalia Marsicovetere

Natalia is a social and cultural psychologist and educator and activist for sexual and gender diversity rights in Guatemala. She is currently Oxfam Central America’s lead for Gender Justice

This is the part of our 2023 summer series of blogs about LGBTQIA+ rights around the world that started off in Pride month. Subscribe here to keep up with the latest posts and also follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn