April 28, 2017 at 5:16 pm PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Salvadoran trans activist nominated for international human rights award

Karla Avelar is director of Comunicado y Capacitando a Mujeres Trans (COMCAVIS), a transgender advocacy group in El Salvador. (Photo courtesy of Karla Avelar)

A transgender activist in El Salvador has been nominated for an international human rights award.

Karla Avelar in 2008 co-founded Comunicado y Capacitando a Mujeres Trans, a group known by the Spanish acronym COMCAVIS that advocates on behalf of trans, intersex and LGB Salvadorans. Five detained members of FreeThe5KH, a Cambodian human rights group, and Mohamed Zaree of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in Egypt, have also been nominated to receive the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, the International Federation for Human Rights, the World Organization Against Torture, Front Line Defenders, the International Commission of Jurists, EWDE Germany, International Service for Human Rights and Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems are the organizations that comprise the jury for the award. The ceremony at which it will be presented is scheduled to take place in Geneva on Oct. 10.

“I want to thank Martin Ennals, the jury and those who nominated me for this important award,” said Avelar in a press release that Human Rights Watch released on Wednesday.

Anti-LGBT violence rampant in El Salvador

El Salvador is a small Central American country that borders Guatemala and Honduras.

The country has one of the world’s highest murder rates. Homophobic and transphobic rhetoric from politicians and religious figures, discrimination, poverty, ineffective policing and a lack of educational and employment opportunities are among the myriad factors that have made LGB and especially trans Salvadorans particularly vulnerable to violence.

A group of four “unknown men” with guns carjacked Avelar last October and demanded her cell phone and identification. Three trans women were killed in San Luis Talpa, a municipality in La Paz Department that is roughly an hour south of the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador, in February.

Bianka Rodríguez of COMCAVIS told members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last month during a hearing in D.C. that trans women’s family members and gang members frequently target them. She said several trans women have fled El Salvador since the San Luis Talpa murders.

“Although today I am in danger, and sure that my struggle is risky, my eagerness for justice and equity motivates me,” said Avelar in the Human Rights Watch press release. “I will continue to push the state to accept reforms and legislation proposed by civil society to allow the LGBTI community to fully enjoy their human rights.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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