Before the political crisis blew up in Honduras, Donny Reyes was trying to put his country on the map internationally, working to raise awareness of the abuses and discrimination suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender people.
But as the Central American nation slid into political turmoil, human rights were sidelined.
“We had started talks with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with members of the police and some members of the government for the investigation [of crimes against the LGBT community] and access to some public services. This stopped after the coup d’etat,” Donny explained.
According to information published by the organization Donny works for, the Rainbow Association, killings of transsexual people have also increased sharply since the coup d’etat.
Research conducted by Rainbow found that there were 12 killings of gay, lesbian, trans sexual and transgender people in Honduras in the whole of 2008. In the four months since the coup d’etat, that figure reached 14.
“These are the violent deaths and crimes that we have documented. It doesn't include the many others we don’t know of - the ones that are left in impunity, lost in limbo,” said Donny.
The activist – who was himself a victim of abuse at the hands of the security forces in 2007 – said the most worrying point of the crisis was during the state of emergency in the first week after the coup d’etat, when curfews were implemented in different areas of the country.
During that time, at least three members of the LGBT community were killed. Fabio Zamora was shot in the head while he was working in a market. Marion Cardenas was shot in the forehead on 29 June. Vicky Hernandez died the same way in San Pedro Sula, during the curfew on 28 June.
“During the state of emergency you could feel a climate of fear, collective panic. Nothing could move here if it hadn’t been authorized by the armed forces, particularly the army. When the state of emergency was declared that day, everybody just ran home to hide and find refuge. What the authorities would do that night was nobody’s responsibility.”
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Since 2010, Donny has continued to combat discrimination against the LGBTI community of Honduras. Recognizing the need for a safe and secure space, Asociacion Arcoiris created “Rainbow House,” a home in Comayagüela that trains community leaders and acts as a base for HIV prevention outreach and peer support. At Rainbow House, Arcoiris conducts regular workshops to train young LGBT people and sex workers in human rights, focusing on issues such as conflict resolution, domestic violence, discrimination, and safer sex practices. Graduates go on to replicate the trainings among peer networks in Comayagüela’s LGBT and sex worker communities.