With so little action by authorities to investigate the recent murder of Francela Méndez Rodríguez, a prominent Salvadoran trans rights activist, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is calling for the Salvadoran government to acknowledge the country's epidemic of transphobic violence and increase protections.
Rodríguez, a 29-year-old trans woman, was killed in the early hours of May 31 by several unknown assailants while visiting the home of her friend Consuela Flores Martínez in Sonsonate. Martínez was also killed in the attack.
Rodríguez is currently the seventh known trans woman murdered in El Salvador this year by IACHR's count, while global human rights group Front Line Defenders contends that at least ten have been killed.
Rodríguez was reportedly well-known for her activism throughout El Salvador, working as a board member of LGBT rights group Colectivo Alejandría, El Salvadorian Network of Women Human Rights Defenders, and helping to implement a program to halt the spread of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, according to IACHR.
The human rights watchdog has now called on El Saldvador’s District Attorney David Morales to investigate whether Rodríguez’s murder was related to her activist work or to her transgender identity.
Though IACHR concedes that the Salvadoran government has taken administrative strides to condemn the victimization of trans and queer citizens, there remains concern that Rodriguez’s murder investigation is not “exhaustive” enough, and that all motives are not being considered.
Four days before IACHR’s statement, Morales did briefly mention the murder in speaking with the Salvadoran media, saying, “The LGBTI population is victimized by discrimination, rejection, and intolerance that can be seen in grave violations of their human rights,” reports the Washington Blade, adding that Morales described the crime as an expression of anti-LGBT “hate.”
Acknowledging the issues, however, is not enough for IACHR, who has demanded that the Salvadoran government “take additional measures to combat discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons,” including adopting gender identity nondiscrimination laws and keeping official track of each occurrence of anti-LGBT violence.
El Salvador sees one of the highest rates of transgender women murdered in Latin America each year, according to the Blade. Brazil appears to lead the Americas — in part, because the nation’s media records such crimes better than many other countries — with 59 anti-trans murders recorded for last year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.