By Oscar Lopez
MEXICO CITY, May 15 (Openly) - Mexico is seeing a surge of extreme violence toward LGBT+ people in its deadliest year in half a decade, a leading rights group said on Friday, citing cases of victims brutally stabbed and brazenly killed in public.
In 2019, 117 lesbian, gay, bi and trans people were killed in Mexico, up almost a third compared with 2018 and the highest number since 2015, according to LGBT+ advocacy group Letra S.
Overall in Mexico, last year was the deadliest on record, but the increase among the gay and trans community was more severe, said Alejandro Brito, Letra S director.
"We've documented that victims are subjected to multiple forms of violence, before or even after they were murdered," Brito said.
"There is a cruelty towards the victims," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Victims have been found handcuffed, stabbed repeatedly and in public places, he said.
A lesbian woman was killed while out one night with her girlfriend in the city of Cuernavaca, and the bodies of several murdered trans women were found on the streets.
Amid widespread gang violence and drug trafficking groups in Mexico, more than 34,500 homicide victims were reported last year, according to official data. But while the number of murder victims was up 2.5% in 2019, the number of gay and trans people killed was 27% higher than in 2018, said Letra S.
More than half the victims were transgender women, while nearly a third were gay men. At least 441 LGBT+ people were murdered in Mexico between 2015 and 2019, the group said.
LGBT+ rights have grown stronger in Mexico, with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation outlawed since 2003. The country was the second to implement such a law in Latin America after Ecuador.
More than half of Mexico's 32 states recognize gay marriage, and the nation's top court has ruled that trans people have a legal right to change their gender identity on official documents.
Brito said the increasing visibility afforded by advances in LGBT+ issues may have contributed to the surging violence.
The violence "is specifically directed at LGBT people," he said.
"The greater visibility ... has led macho groups, fundamentalist sectors to reject this public presence of gays, lesbians and trans people."
Gay and trans people still face societal prejudice in the predominantly Catholic country where religious groups frequently criticize LGBT+ rights.
In a 2017 government survey, about a third of Mexicans said they would not rent out a room to a gay or trans person. Lawmakers welcomed the data for highlighting the often underreported violence faced by LGBT+ people in Mexico.
"Hate crimes due to homophobia and transphobia are generally made invisible," said Patricia Mercado, a senator with the opposition Citizens' Movement party. "We have to continue working to prevent all forms of discrimination that can lead to a hate crime."
The data on murders was based on news reports of LGBT+ killings, but the actual number could be much higher, according to Letra S.
(Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.