HRW urges Panama to take measures to prevent trans abuse

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PANAMA (AP) – Human Rigths Watch urged Panama on Thursday to take urgent measures to prevent abuse, harassment and arrests against transgender people during the quarantine ordered to contain the transmission of the new coronavirus in the Central American country.

“We have documented very serious incidents of discrimination and abuse,” José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Human Rigths Watch Americas division, told The Associated Press by phone.

The agency sent a letter to President Laurentino Cortizo on the day asking him to put in place policies to “protect the dignity” of these people. This is related to the government measure —in force since the beginning of April— which established by gender the necessary exits during the quarantine: Monday, Wednesday and Friday for women, and the other days of the week for men.

Panama was the first country in Latin America to implement such restrictions, although Peru and Colombia later joined.

The AP asked for a reaction to the presidency on the issue that was not immediately answered.

Groups defending human rights, and particularly the trans community, questioned the restriction from the start, considering that it would cause discriminatory acts.

Human Rigths Watch, in its letter to Cortizo, lists nine cases of trans people who reported that, due to their condition, they were in some cases subject to arrest, rejection, discrimination, or were prohibited from entering supermarkets by police or private guards.

In Panama there is no gender identity law, although the country’s civil registry authorities, in compliance with international conventions, allow trans people to change their names. If they want the sex change on personal identification documents, it can only be done after surgery or genital reassignment, leaders of that community said.

“When trans women leave the day it is the turn of women in quarantine, we find guards who come out to say ‘you have to retire, you are a man and it is another day,'” he told the AP by telephone. Venus Tejada, who heads the Panamanian Association of Trans People. “We suffered a lot of ridicule and abuse from both trans women and men.”

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