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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 13, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 19
Gay activist murdered by stoning in Mexico
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Gay activist murdered by stoning in Mexico

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The body of Gay activist Leija Herrera was discovered on May 4, near the center of Chilpancingo, Guerrero, Mexico. According to La Jornada Guerrero newspaper, the body was covered with bruises. Mexican authorities suggested Herrera was stoned to death.

Herrera was the director of el Centro de Estudios y Proyectos para el Desarrollo Humano Integral (CEPRODEHI), the Center for Studies and Integral Human Development Projects.

He had participated in many demonstrations, lobbied for civil unions in his state, and reported killings, discrimination, and attacks against LGBT people to Guerrero's attorney general.

Local activists are collecting signatures on a petition to Guerrero State Governor Angel Aguirre. International supporters can sign the petition at Change.org.

The petition says that there is a 'widespread climate of harassment and criminalization of the work of defenders of human rights in Mexico and the cruelty and brutality of the murder presents evidence of a homophobic hate crime.'

It also demands a prompt, independent, comprehensive, effective, and impartial investigation into Herrera's murder, an end to all forms of harassment against LGBT people, and respect for international human rights and the work of advocates in Mexico.

A separate letter to the governor, the attorney general, and the media said that 'the state and its institutions' had been complicit in 'this and other attacks against homosexuals.'

An LGBT leader from the nearby city of Zihuatanejo, Ramiro Sotelo Rizo, expressed his outrage against the murder.

Sotelo said that he felt 'very sad' that there are still hate crimes, because fighting for the rights of the Gay community has been peaceful.

'It's very sad for us to know these facts, as we have worked in a peaceful way, and everything we have done with effort, what we ask for is respect, and it is unfortunate these crimes continue,' he said.

Sotelo added that in many investigations of hate crimes, they are 'always said to be from other causes, when in fact they are homophobic, and not given follow-up investigations.'

'We're going to keep fighting and keep asking for justice,' he added.

Sotelo also said that Herrera's murder was only one example of pervasive discrimination against LGBT Mexicans.

'There has been discrimination in employment, as was the case with a fellow who worked in a restaurant and a customer came and told the owner 'I do not want a Gay to serve me.' The owner spoke to the fellow and told him he had nothing against the Gay community, but it was his business and he was not going to lose customers, so the fellow lost his job,' Sotelo explained.

Same-sex relations have been legal in Mexico since 1871, but public decency laws have often been used to harass the LGBT community.

In 2001 the federal constitution was amended to protect 'sexual preferences.' In 2003, a federal anti-discrimination law also banned discrimination on the basis of 'sexual preferences.'

Mexico City legalized same-sex marriages and adoption by same-sex couples in March 2010, and the federal Supreme Court ruled in August 2010 that marriages performed there must be recognized throughout the country.

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