Unhappy Pride

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By: Ada Cruz-Torres, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

On Saturday June 7, thousands of proud members of the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and intersex) community gathered in Washington, D.C. for the 39th annual Capital Pride Parade. Accompanied by countless family and friends, three or four religious extremists expressing their dismay, and of course, the DC police squad ensuring the safety of all participants, the event was a smashing success. The parade included fabulous drag queens dressed in extravagant dresses, Capital Pride heroes such as Reverend Dean Snyder, and—for the first time—representatives of the U.S. military. Joyful onlookers wearing “love conquers hate” buttons and rainbow-themed paraphernalia cheered “happy pride” for hours.

A similar event took place in Honduras on May 17, known as the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). This day has been celebrated all over the world by millions of LGBTQI rights supporters ever since the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 2004.[1] The main purpose of IDAHO is to “draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people.”[2] Yet this particular demonstration, held in the streets of Tegucigalpa, did not celebrate LGBTQI pride—the community organized it to demand their rights. Human rights activists gathered to call for an end to violence and hatred directed at sexual minorities.[3] While gay and lesbian activists in the United States call for marital equality by citing the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, the Honduran political agenda is not quite as progressive yet. As LGBTQI activist Erick Martinez explains, “there are rights that have to be secured first—the right to life, employment, housing—fundamental rights. Basically, we can’t get married if we’re being murdered.”[4]

A Regional Problem

The Honduran LGBTQI community is not alone in its fight for equality. Neighboring countries in the Central American isthmus also have restrictions regarding sexual diversity rights. For instance, having same-sex intercourse in Belize is punishable by law with up to 14 years in prison.[5] A couple of weeks ago, the Panamanian legislature passed a law that prohibits same-sex marriages and refuses to acknowledge those legalized in foreign countries.[6] In early May, demonstrators gathered in Guatemala City to promote “treatment for sexual deviants,” as well as a “normal” heterosexual family. [7] Sadly, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina supports this anti-gay position and even refused to sign an Organization of American States (OAS) document in June of last year because he believes “Guatemalan society is based on family values and we’re going to abide by the ethical values imposed by the Constitution.”[8] In El Salvador, the LGBTQI community has not been legally recognized,[9] and at least 145 members have been assassinated over the past eight years. [10]

However, there is significant progress being done in the region. This past May, Belizean first lady Kim Simplis Barrow called for an end to homophobic violence and discrimination,[11] and on June 7, regional Caribbean youth leaders came together and launched Generation Change, a project geared towards lobbying for LGBTQI rights in the Central American region.[12] In an attempt to help the Guatemalan community, the Human Rights Office created the Defensoría de la Diversidad Sexual this April, which is a specific bureau that processes cases of sexual discrimination. In addition, members of the transsexual Salvadorian community were finally allowed to vote in the presidential elections that took place this past March. In previous elections, they were not allowed to vote because their physical appearances did not match the masculine birth names on their identification cards.[13] Nicaragua also has come a long way; while the government regarded homosexuality as a crime punishable by imprisonment in 2008,[14] a woman was elected for the Defense of Sexual Diversity Rights in 2009 and has helped make society more accepting of sexual minorities.[15] As for Costa Rica, the country is considered to be the most gay-friendly in Central America even though it does not legally recognize gay marriage.[16] On June 11, government officials announced that homosexuals would have the same access to healthcare as heterosexuals,[17] and President Solís even raised a rainbow LGBTQI flag over the presidential palace on the International Day Against Homophobia.[18]

The Gay Travel Index, which ranks 138 of the world’s countries and calculates scores based on laws and customs towards LGBTQI acceptance, indicates that Central America lacks consistent progress toward LGBTQI inclusivity. [19] While it ranks Costa Rica at 53, Honduras is 107 on the list and remains the most dangerous country in Central America for members of the gay and lesbian community to both visit and live in.[20]

Human Rights Violations


Fourteen gay murders have been documented in Honduras since Juan Orlando Hernández was sworn in as President in January of this year.[21] His agenda, which revolves around the mano dura—or firm hand—ideology, focuses on reducing Honduras’ high murder rates, currently at 90.4 murders per 100,000 citizens.[22] In his inauguration speech, Hernández announced that he would do ‘whatever it takes’—¡voy a hacer lo que tenga que hacer!—to restore safety in Honduras.[23]

However, in order to reduce murder rates, President Hernández needs to address LGBTQI human rights abuses. Critics of the new military police unit, for instance, are rightfully concerned that the unit will commit more human rights violations, given that the national police are known for being LGBTQI aggressors.[24] The president has even dismissed LGBTQI rights altogether, expressing his desire to repeal what few protections gay and lesbian Hondurans currently have under Article 321.[25] This anti-discrimination law punishes anyone who victimizes others based on race, gender, age, class, religion, political party, or on the grounds of any other violation that undermines other’s human dignity, from 3 to 5 years in prison and with a fine ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 Lempiras, or $1,300 to $2,200. [26] Although governmental institutions are not always capable of enforcing this regulation,[27] the LGBTQI community interprets the possible alteration of the Article as an alarming threat because it will further jeopardize their livelihood. This is especially true considering that the government is extremely corrupt and police officials are given impunity.[28] Evidence of these tyrannical abuses is presented in the Honduran newspaper La Prensa’s report from May indicating that between 2005 and 2014, about 150 members of the LGBTQI community were slain by several different government entities including the national and municipal police.[29]

One of these murders occurred on January 6, when transgender sex worker Marco Noé López Castillo was kidnapped in San Pedro Sula by a group of armed men; her strangled body was found in a plastic bag early the next day. Unfortunately, this grotesque practice is becoming an all too common trend against women, youth, and LGBTQI members—little is being done to quell these abuses.[30] This is indicative of the venomous stance that many Hondurans have taken against the LGBTQI community; the Honduran Commission of Human Rights (CONADEH) indicate that many perpetrators are family members of the sexually diverse community.[31]

There was one particular death that greatly impacted the gay community. Walter Trochez, a pioneer of LGBTQI rights in Honduras, was violently murdered in December 2009 after being threatened and kidnapped several times in the months preceding his murder.[32] Those close to him, such as Erick Martinez, argue that Trochez filed claims against these menaces, but the authorities failed to take action. Despite demands for a thorough investigation by several human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, no one has been charged with the murder to this day. [33]

Impunity Problems


Although the Honduran police claim they have already begun an investigation regarding the Trochez case and have denied any law enforcement involvement, Vincent Warren, the Executive Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, explains, “a secretive organization that employs violence and coercion investigating itself is a hallmark of rampant impunity and is something that should concern all who value human rights.”[34]

Dana Frank, a professor of history at the University of Southern California at Santa Cruz (USCSC), reasons, “if you think about the whole devastation of the rule of law and the corrupt policing [in Honduras], that puts LGBT people even more at risk, because you can do anything you want and nothing will happen to you.”[35] According to a report released in May by CONADEH, more than 100 members of the LGBTQI community are victims of homicide, attempted homicide, abuse from authorities, illegal detainment, robbery, harassment, rape, death threats interfamilial violence, and government security aggression each year.[36]Amnesty International claims that the perpetrators of these crimes “are confident that they will not be punished because they commit these acts of homophobic violence in a climate of impunity.”[37]

Separation of Church and State?


Twenty-three percent of the Honduran population identifies with Evangelical ideology,[38] and last year, Evangelical pastor Evelio Reyes told his congregation, “don’t vote for homosexuals and lesbians who corrupt the model of God.” [39] He was clearly referring to political party LIBRE’s candidate Xiomara Castro and her support for the LGBTQI community.

Erick Martinez filed a lawsuit against Reyes, claiming that the constitution declared Honduras as a secular state, meaning that religious leaders are not allowed to interfere with elections. The charges were dropped a few months later.

The inconsistency of governmental institutions to follow through with laws and policies, coupled with the lack of compromise from political leaders and law enforcement officials, makes protecting human rights a monumental task.

“Religion justifies killing homosexuals,” Martinez concluded.[40]

National and International Support


There are several national and global organizations and support groups that have attempted to fight against the blatant disregard for LGBTQI rights in Honduras.

Siempre Unidos, an organization fighting the HIV epidemic in Honduras, began in the 1990s, when an average of nine people were dying per month due to HIV/AIDS.[41] The organization has since partnered with the Ministry of Health, making it the first—and only—NGO authorized to help treat HIV/AIDS in the country.

Several key activists have also been invaluable in fighting for progress for the disenfranchised. One of the valiant advocates is Pepe Palacios who has sought the aid of the U.S. government to confront human rights violations.[42] In 2013 he embarked on a seven-city trip across the US with the goal of forming a coalition focused on equality and justice. Miguelito Chong and Yoyo Barrientos are two very successful and highly acclaimed Honduran gay fashion designers. People are gradually learning to respect and admire individuals for who they are and what they can do, rather than discriminate based on sexual orientation. These, and others, are inspiring respect and admiration for those with alternative lifestyles.

The OAS has also condemned this issue. The Inter-American Convention Against all forms of Discrimination and Intolerance was established to fight against homophobia by defining key terms such as discrimination and intolerance.[43] More recently, at the 44th General Assembly of the OAS in Guatemala on June 9, member states passed the Sixth Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity. The resolution was the first of its kind to include LGBTQI rights and insists that member states defend LGBTQI people’s rights “because they carry out a fundamental role in the region.”[44] Though the OAS has established various frameworks to ensure equality, there is still a great amount of discrimination within Latin American countries. Unfortunately, the Honduran government however does not seem to believe that the issue is pressing enough to demand action.


Living Alternatives Abroad

Since the situation in Central America is so dangerous, LGBTQI individuals often migrate to the United States or to South America in order to live a more peaceful life. The Gay Travel Index placed several South American counties – Uruguay at 9, Argentina at 16, and Brazil at 22—at the top of the chart.[45] Also, the Department of Homeland Security claims almost 60 percent of the people who request asylum in the United States are members of the LGBTQI community.[46]

The situation in these countries, though far from perfect, is remarkably better than in Central America. In 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage, and Uruguay followed in 2013. [47] Argentina also passed a Gender Identity Law in 2012, which allows transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates.[48] The supreme courts in both Brazil and Colombia have also recently endorsed the constitutional right to same-sex marriage.[49]

            The US has come a long way since shunning homosexuals from society a few years ago, and it was listed as number 39 on the Gay Travel Index.[50] Several states, including California and New York,[51] have approved same-sex marriage. There has been an increase of LGBTQI Latino immigrants coming into the country because they see a future in the US where they are not discriminated by their sexual orientation at a workplace.[52] There are also various LGBTQI Latino groups and organizations operating on the local and national level, which focus on serving Latinos in the LGBT community. La Clínica del Pueblo, a Washington, D.C. based health center for the Latino community, has started an HIV youth group called ¡Empodérate! (Empower Yourself!). The organization is the “only bilingual, HIV program that targets young Latino [gay men] and… male-to-female transgender Latinas between the ages of 18 and 29” in the area.[53]

Concluding Remarks

A close-minded, backward-thinking culture is the biggest challenge that the sexually diverse community in Honduras has to battle. Vladimir Ernesto Reyes, coordinator of the New Horizons Association of Nicaragua, explains that the Central American “population is highly chauvinistic and patriarchal, with strong religious roots.”[54] Helen Clark, the administrator of the United Nations Development Program, suggests that education is a fundamental tool toward achieving a cultural change to end discrimination and ignorance to tolerance and inclusivity.[55] Sexual diversity education should be integrated to children’s yearly curriculum, as discrimination at an early age happens because of ignorance, thereby creating an ideal breeding ground for ignorance, misinformation and prejudice. [56]

Even countries’ economies are potentially affected by homophobia. In a panel discussion held at the World Bank in March, Dr. M. V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, presented his case study on India titled “The Economic Cost of Homophobia.”[57] In his study, Dr. Badgett explains how the cost of homophobia has a weakening impact on a country’s GDP, which can range from 0.7-1.7 percent. This is because of the negative toll that LGBTQI discrimination takes on a person’s physical and mental health, therefore yielding to higher healthcare costs and lower economic output.[58] Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, also argues that institutionalized discriminations is bad for society and economic progress. In an interview with The Washington Post he stated, “there is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer.”[59] This is an area that Honduran President Hernández should consider, given that Honduras has one of the lowest GDPs in the region.[60]

“I always compare the LGBT rights situation here to an onion,” Erick Martinez said a few months ago. “The outer layer is transgender women, who are beaten, and so on to the inner layer of professional men who are married, and who are never going to be ‘gay.'”[61] Like an onion, the struggle to achieve LGBTQI rights also elicits tears; a painful process that will ultimately yield better results.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: and Rights Action.


[1] “International Day Against Homophobia,” Fondation Émergence, 2012,

[2] “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia,” IDAHO Committee, 2013,

[3] “Homosexuales exigen respeto a sus derechos y cese de la violencia en Honduras,” lainformacion, May 17, 2014,

[4] Lees, Kevin A., “Honduran LGBT Activists Fear Ongoing Threat Upon Hernández Inauguration,” Huffington Post, January 24, 2014,

[5] Shim, Eileen, “A Stunning Map Pinpoints the Worst Places in the World to be Gay,” News Mic, February 26, 2014,

[6] “Panama: Controversy Erupts Over Gay Marriage Ban,” Panama Post, May 12, 2014,

[7] Reynolds, Louisa, “Homophobia is Still Rife,” Latin American Press, June 6, 2014,

[8] Ibid.

[9] “América celebra Día contra la Homofobia con demandas por la igualdad,” Miami Diario, May 17, 2014,

[10] Mackey, Marie, and Gloria Marisela Moran, “Transgender People Vote for the first itme in El Salvador’s History,” Global Post, March 26, 2014,

[11] Johnson , Liam . “First Lady of Belize calls for end to anti-gay violence .” Gay Star News , May 20, 2014.

[12] Nicholas , Stephon . “Caribbean Youths Unite for LGBT Rights.” Trinidad and Tobago Newsday , June 8, 2014.,195934.html

[13] Marisela Moran , Gloria . “Transgender people voted for the first time in El Salvador’s history.” Global Post , March 26, 2014.

[14] Adan Silva, Jose . “RIGHTS-NICARAGUA: An Ombudswoman for Sexual Diversity.” Inter Press Service.

[15] Centro Para La Educacion Y Prevencion Del Sida , “¿Cuánto se acepta diversidad sexual en Nicaragua?”

[16] Morgan , Joe . “Costa Rica closes gay marriage loophole after ‘accidental’ approval.” Gay Star News, September 23, 2013.

[17] Arguedas Ortiz, Diego . “Costa Rica abre esperanzas para LGBT en América Central.” Inter Press Service , June 11, 2014.

[18] Ibid

[19] Spartacus: International Gay Guide . “Gay Travel Index .” . (accessed June 24, 2014).

[20] Ibid

[21] “Homosexuales exigen respeto a sus derechos y cese de la violencia en Honduras.” – Homosexuales – Noticias, última hora, vídeos y fotos de Homosexuales en (accessed June 24, 2014).

[22] Kahn, Carrie. “Honduras Claims Unwanted Title Of World’s Murder Capital.” NPR. (accessed June 24, 2014).

[23] Lees, Kevin. “Hernández takes office with agenda already largely in place.” Suffragio. (accessed June 24, 2014).

[24] “Duras críticas a la policía militar que pretende instaurar Honduras –” Duras críticas a la policía militar que pretende instaurar Honduras – (accessed June 24, 2014).

[25] Lees, Kevin. “Honduran LGBT Activists Fear Ongoing Threat Upon Hernández Inauguration.” The Huffington Post. (accessed June 24, 2014).

[26] Abriendo Brecha. “Congreso Nacional analizará reforma al artículo 321 del Código Penal.” AbriendoBrecha. (accessed June 24, 2014).

[27] “The State of the LGBT** Movement in Honduras.” . (accessed June 24, 2014).

[28] Lees, Kevin. “Honduran LGBT Activists Fear Ongoing Threat Upon Hernández Inauguration.” The Huffington Post. (accessed June 24, 2014).

[29] Buscador – Diario La Prensa. “Mas de cien homosexuales murieron violentamente en Honduras entre 2005 y 2014.” Diario La Prensa de Honduras. (accessed June 24, 2014).

[30] Cuffe, Sandra. “Sex Workers Take to the Streets in Honduras to Protest Murders and Discrimination.” Sex Workers Take to the Streets in Honduras to Protest Murders and Discrimination. (accessed June 24, 2014).

[31]“Conadeh: Impunidad prevalence en la muerte violenta de miembros de la diversidad sexual,” Procesco Digital, May 17, 2014, accessed June 15, 2014,

[32] Doug Ireland, “Honduran Regime Martyrs LGBT Leader,” The Council on Hemispheric Affair, January 10, 2010, accessed June 15, 2014,

[33] Vincent Warren, “The Murder of Walter Trochez: Political Violence and Impunity in Honduras,” Huffington Post, December 13, 2010, accessed June 15, 2014,

[34] Ibid.

[35] Kevin A. Lees, “Honduran LGBT Activists Fear Ongoing Threat Upon Hernández Inauguration,” Huffington Post, January 24, 2014, updated March 26, 2014, accessed June 15, 2014,

[36] “Más de cien homosexuals murieron violentamente en Honduras entre 2005 y 2014,” La Prensa, May 17, 2014, accessed June 15, 2014,

[37] Larry Ladutke, “Stand Up to Homophobic Violence in Honduras!,” Human Rights Now Blog Amnesty International, February 12, 2013, accessed June 15, 2014,

[38] “Honduras—International Religious Freedom Report 2005,” United States Department of State, accessed June 15, 2014,

[39] Andalusia Knoll, “The New President of Honduras will not Stop Hate Crimes,” Upside Down World, December 20, 2013, accessed June 15, 2014,

[40] The State of the LGBT** Movement in Honduras,” Honduran Equality Delegation, 2013, accessed June 15, 2014,

[41] “What We Do.” Siempre Unidos:. (accessed June 16, 2014).

[42] Chibbaro, Jr., Lou. “Honduran gay leader appeals to U.S. for help.” Washington Blade. 13 Feb 2013.

[43] Organization of American States. Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (A-69).

[44] Strother, Emma. “Progress and Challenges to LGBT Rights in Latin America in light of the recent ‘Sixth Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity.’” Council on Hemispheric Affairs. 3 July 2013.

[45] Spartacus World. Gay Travel Index. 21 Feb 2014.

[46] Millman, Joel. “Why Sexual Minorities Have an Inside Track to a U.S. Green Card.” The Wall Street Journal. 13 June 2014.

[47] Spartacus World. Gay Travel Index. 21 Feb 2014.

[48] Saner, Emine. “Gay rights around the world: the best and worst countries for equality.” The Guardian. 30 July 2013.

[49] Encarnación, Omar G. “High Courts Have Taken a Stand.” The New York Times. 29 Jan 2014.

[50] Spartacus World. Gay Travel Index. 21 Feb 2014.

[51] “States | Freedom to Marry.” States | Freedom to Marry. (accessed June 18, 2014).

[52] Garz, Jazmine . “A Gay Migrant’s Story.” NPR. (accessed June 16, 2014).

[53] “¡Empodérate! Youth Center.” . (accessed June 14, 2014).

[54] Herrera, Carmen . ” Important presence of LGBTI community.” . (accessed June 12, 2014).

[55] “América celebra Día contra la Homofobia con demandas por la igualdad.” – (accessed June 18, 2014).

[56] Reynolds, Louisa. “Homophobia is still rife.”Latinamerican Press. (accessed June 13, 2014).

[57]Badgett, M. V. Lee. “The Economic Cost of Homophobia.” . (accessed June 24, 2014).

[58] Ibid

[59] Westcott, Lucy. “What Homophobia Costs a Country’s Economy.” The Wire. (accessed June 16, 2014).

[60] InsightSur. “GDP and PPP in Central America.” InsightSur. (accessed June 12, 2014).

[61] Lees, Kevin. “Honduran LGBT Activists Fear Ongoing Threat Upon Hernández Inauguration.” The Huffington Post. (accessed June 17, 2014).