LGBT rights defenders receive death threats in northern Colombia

The systematic violence against Colombia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) population has worsened in recent years, according to a recent report released by the Ministry of the Interior.

According to the report, the vulnerability of the LGBT community at the hands of armed groups is most severe in Colombia’s Caribbean coastal region.  There, LGBT rights defenders have received numerous death threats by illegal armed groups, reported Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper on Tuesday.

MORE: Colombia: Liberal in theory, homophobic in practice

On July 9, the Rastrojos drug trafficking organization sent death threats to various human rights defenders – including LGBT rights defenders – in Colombia’s northern Atlantic state declaring them “military targets.” According to the Rastrojos, such people would be assassinated “for defending farmers, displaced people, gays, lesbians, and rape victims,” and for “not supporting the advance of democracy,” reported LGBT advocacy organization Caribe Afirmativo.

Hide or confront us

The Rastrojos’ statement ended with the warning that “these whores have 72 hours to hide or confront us.”

In another pamphlet received earlier this year by LGBT community leaders, the Rastrojos deemed “lesbians and homosexuals” targets because they “degraded morals and set a bad example for children,” reported El Espectador.

MORE: Colombia’s transgender community demands end to ‘exclusion and segregation’ of military service requirement

The report on violence against the LGBT community also said that given the severity of the situation, the Prosecutor General’s Office has incorporated a new strategy that permits the prioritization of investigations into homicides of trans women in Sincelejo and Maicao, two cities in Colombia’s northern Sucre and La Guajira states, reported El Espectador.

Impunity high

Nevertheless, the impunity rate is alarming; of the 202 violent incidents reported, only seven have made it to court, and only eight have received sentences.

“It sends a message to society that violence against the LGBT population doesn’t matter, and it also sends a message of reassurance to the perpetrators that they will not be held accountable,” said Wilson Castañeda, director of LGBT advocacy organization Caribe Afirmativo.

MORE: Colombia human rights defenders still in danger: Report

Even among citizens of Colombia’s capital city, Bogota, an alleged 20% of the community believes that LGBT are “a risk to the community,” reported El Espectador. Homosexuality was even a crime in Colombia, punishable by imprisonment, until 1980.


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