In my previous work with individuals seeking political asylum in the United States based on their sexual orientation (and their fear of persecution should they be sent back home), I often would read articles and reports of violent beatings and abuse, particularly of transgender individuals, at the hands of authorities or entire communities.
Not that it's necessarily the first time that it's caught on video but when I was made aware of this news report from Perú's America Noticias I was shocked (see YouTube clip above).
Apparently, the news report was broadcast on Wednesday, January 28th, so this might have happened earlier in the week. It shows men belonging to two neighborhood watch groups in Tarapoto, Peru, capturing a transgender sex worker and a client for allegedly engaging in sexual acts out in the open. The report says that both were stripped, their hair shorn off, beaten and humiliated, although the report only seems to capture what happened to the transgender woman.
Most chillingly is one of the members of the group, Jutson Alvarado, brings up the recent stabbing of another transgender person in the streets of Tarapoto and seems in approval of that attack. "We definitely have agreed to eradicate this", he says on camera.
He might have referring to the recent stabbing of a transgender woman in the La Banda de Shilcayo neighborhood: A January 22nd article in Trome says that a hair stylist named Dayana Nicole, who once was crowned "Miss Gay Tarapoto", was near death after being stabbed 20 times. Police said that they were investigating whether Nicole might have been stabbed by a client who had sought her services as a prostitute or by a jealous lover in a "crime of passion".
Update: Several LGBT and human rights organizations in Peru have released a statement which reads as follows...
With profound indignation we have seen the images shown on the news broadcast of America TV showing the brutal and cowardly assault against Techi, the victim whose legal name is JP; a transvestite person who does sex work in the city of Tarapoto.
The assailants, members of the Puerto Azul and Señor de los Milagros neighborhood watch associations, considered that the beating and abuse to which they subjected JP was "deserved" and felt that their actions were "just", citing the need "to eradicate prostitution". Let's remind ourselves that, under Peruvian law, prostitution is not a crime.
It is worrisome that this group of persons pretend to grant themselves the right to judge and punish, a responsibility that only pertains to the State and that should only be exercised according to law, taking into account the difference between mistakes and crimes, as well as the proportion of the punishment.
However, the reality that is shown by the crude images is an absolute lack of respect for the dignity of a person whose only real "crime" is to live according to the gender identity felt as her own and that, if she performs sex work, it might be due to the fact that the marginalization and exclusion suffered by being different does not leave another option. In any case, given that prostitution is not a crime, those who exercise it are not criminals and should not be treated as such.
Although the neighborhood watches played an effective work during the fight against terrorism, we have abundant information that, in present circumstances, they can become an instrument which seeks to impose a certain narrow vision of the world, perpetuating prejudice and irrational hatred .
A person cannot be violated without impunity simply for being different, just because they do not comply with the idea of what a person or persons think is "good" or "bad".
The organizations and activists who defend the rights and dignity of transvestites, gays, lesbians and bisexuals demand:
Lima, Peru, January 30, 2009
- That those who violated Techi will be punished
- That the organizations that make up the State, municipalities, regional governments and central government, serve their duty - in a professional manner and according to law - to guarantee public order
- That the organizations that form the State, municipalities, regional governments and central government undertake campaigns against homophobia and in favor of those who are different
Signed by: Movimiento Homosexual de Lima (MHOL) - PROMSEX Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos - LTGB Legal - Asociación Civil Ángel Azul de Travestis, Transgéneros y Transexuales - Colectivo Uniones Perú - Grupo de Mujeres Diversas - Asociación Civil Amistad y Respeto - Comunidad Homosexual Esperanza Región Loreto (CHERL) - Grupo Puentes/Casa Abierta - Asociación Civil de Trabajadoras Sexuales Miluska Vida y Dignidad - Grupo Voluntades - Asociación Civil Diversidad San Martinense - Mesa de Concertación de San Martin