Francela Méndez was “young, educated, friendly, hard working and a leader”, as described by Paty Hernández, a renowned Salvadoran Trans activist who had to flee her country due to continuous assaults and death threats.
Hate crimes have taken the lives of at least ten Trans people so far in 2015 and, according to historical records, it is feared that this number will increase during Pride celebrations. Last year, Key Correspondents reported the increase in murders of Trans people during June.
Francela worked for the Alejandría Collective, which she helped set up in 2010. She contributed to the implementation of the project activities financed by the Global Fund and was a determined defender of the human rights of Trans people and a promoter of the Gender Identity Law.
“Francela is the tip of the iceberg” Paty told Key Correspondents. “So far this year ten trans and two gay people have been murdered, and the offices of ASPIDH Arcoiris have been broken into”. The harassment against Trans people and their organisations does not just come from delinquents and gang members, but also from the state authorities responsible for the investigation of assault cases and from the media, which contribute to increasing stigmatisation, discrimination and hatred of the LGBT community.
The news of Francela’s death has made international media headlines, including CNN.
The attorney for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), David Morales, strongly condemned the killing of Francela and requested that the Prosecutor follow the correct process and investigate the murder.
Various organisations that work in defending the rights of people of diversity issued a statement in which they demand that the responsible authorities proceed with diligence and impartiality in the investigation of the murder of Francela. They also expressed their indignation over the statement of police officers who were quick to insinuate that the case was linked to drug trafficking.
The suffering, discrimination, persecution and threats that LGBT people face in El Salvador is unacceptable and hate crimes are recurrent; this has led a group of organisations to propose legal reforms that would classify these murders as hate crimes.
In a televised interview on the reform proposal to increase penalties for people who commit hate crimes against the LGBT population, Karla Avelar, Executive Director of COMCAVIS TRANS, said that discrimination is one of the major problems that trans women experience, which excludes them from the educational system and the labour market and forces them into sex work or to live on the streets. She expressed her hope that more organisations join the initiative and that various political parties support the reform.
The voice of Trans people has been heard by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which took a stand on this issue in recent months, recommending that the country investigate cases of assault against LGBT people, and promote laws that ensure that this population can enjoy the same rights as others. A few days ago the Commission restated its position on the recent case of Francela Méndez.
Violence in El Salvador is so common that the reaction of the authorities has become lethargic. This is aggravated in the cases of murders of Trans people since they are considered second-class citizens and treated as such; prejudices interfere with hypotheses about motives and forensic and police investigations are poorly conducted and delivered late- if they are done at all.
From the side of the international community, we must not succumb to such lethargy. We must show our outrage, follow the progress of the situation in Central American countries and urge the Government authorities to put pressure on regional areas to stop these crimes going unpunished.