The horrifying killing of a transgender woman in the Dominican Republic – the second such killing this year and 38th since 2006 – highlights the extreme violence faced by many transgender women in the country and the need for strengthened legal protection for discriminated groups, said Amnesty International.
“The grotesque killing of Jessica Rubi Mori is a tragic reminder that the Dominican authorities need to take bolder steps to eradicate discrimination, including that based on gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director for Amnesty International.
The body of Jessica Rubi Mori (whose legal name was Elvis Guerrero) a transgender sex worker and activist with community organization Este Amor (This Love), was found on 3 June 2017 in the eastern Dominican municipality of Higüey. Her body was found dismembered in a wasteland. According to news reports, one suspect has been placed under arrest.
According to Cristian King, executive director of TRANSSA – Trans Siempre Amigas (Trans Always Friends), only four people have so far been convicted for the 38 cases of killings of transgender women that the organization has documented since 2006. King told Amnesty International his organization has been working closely with the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Attorney General on recent cases.
Several weeks ago, a 20-year-long sentence was given for the killing of another transgender woman, Kimberly Sody, in 2014.
Dominican LGBTI-led organizations have long called for a gender identity law to protect the rights of transgender people. A proposal for an anti-discrimination law was drafted last year seeking to address entrenched and historical discrimination affecting many groups in the country, in particular based on gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, amongst other categories. The proposal is yet to be tabled in Parliament.
According to a study by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), published in 2012, in the Dominican Republic less than 35 percent of transgender women sex workers have completed secondary school. As they are pushed away from education, many become involved in transactional sex as early as 16. This early social exclusion leads to poverty and more violence. Transgender people are often pushed into criminalized work, such as sex work, which further exposes them to police abuse and arbitrary detentions.
The same study found that 80 percent of transgender sex workers felt they were more discriminated against for being trans than for being a sex worker. More than 35 percent of transgender sex workers had experienced physical violence walking on the street, more than 40 percent had suffered physical violence by clients, and more than 20 percent, physical violence by a partner. Eighty percent had been arrested or detained at least once, and 36 percent had exchanged sex with police officers to avoid being arrested.