Civil and human rights groups in Puebla, Mexico circulated a petition on Tuesday March 12th calling for anti-discrimination legislation and protection for LGBTTTI* persons in the state of Puebla, Mexico.
Nine groups wrote the petition in response to the murder of Agnes Torres Hernandez, an activist who was the victim of an apparent hate crime because of her gender. Torres’ body was discovered on Saturday, March 10th in a ravine near a highway in Atlixco, Puebla; her throat had been slit and part of her body had been burned. News reports indicated that she had died of blood loss and that she had been tortured.
Torres had worked to promote legislation against discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity in Puebla; among other demands, the petition asked that the law be established in her name.
Secretario General de Gobierno for the state of Puebla, Fernando Manzanilla Prieto, met with representatives from those civil rights groups on Tuesday. In a press conference after the meeting Manzanilla avoided giving a specific number of homicides that could be classified as hate crimes, saying, “todos los crímenes se dan por odio. ¿A poco hay de otro tipo?” (All crimes are caused by hate. Could there be any other kind?)
Fueled in part by a strong internet response, protesters marched in Torres’ memory through the center of Puebla, the capital city, on Monday afternoon and evening. Thousands of messages expressing anger, grief, and condemnation of the murder appeared on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and the hashtag #AgnesTorres became a trending topic on Twitter.
In addition to her work as an activist, Torres was also a psychologist specializing in gender identity. She was 28 years old and is survived by her parents and sister.
For more information on Agnes Torres’ life:
English-language news report on Torres’ death
A tribute by Alejandra Gómez Macchia
An interview with Agnes Torres’ mother Vinicia Hernández
The text of the petition and its introductory letter follow.
We are soliciting your help, once again, so that the crimes against Agnes Torres and five other murdered people do not go unpunished, and moreover so that conditions change and these crimes do not happen again.
If you agree with our position, we request your signatures, either as individuals or as organizations. We ask that groups affiliated with political parties abstain from signing as a group and instead sign as individuals.
Please send signatures via email to email@example.com. We will be closing the petition on Wednesday, March 14th at noon Central Standard Time.
March 12, 2012
Given conditions of extreme vulnerability and violence against the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Transexual and Intersex population of the state of Puebla,
Given the authorities’ negligence to make appropriate public policies addressing respect, inclusion, and diversity,
Given the ominous silence of legislators, who have consistently put off work that addresses civil rights and discrimination, allowing discrimination to instead take on life in this realm,
Given the inaction by the state’s justice and Human Rights defense agencies, which have allowed for the continued existence of hate crimes, for a state of impunity and for a torn social fabric,
The signing organizations and individuals demand:
1) The resolution of all crimes against members of the LGBTTTI community, using the topic of “gender-based hate” as an investigatory focus, with emphases on transphobia and homophobia. This process must happen with all possible speed and facility, as the law dictates the procurement of justice must occur.
2) That, once and for all, the State of Puebla enact a Law to Prevent and Eradicate Discrimination perpetuated for any motive, regulated and reflected in public policies immediately.
3) The establishment of a working group to generate a law on sex and gender identity for the state of Puebla, which will be known as The Agnes Torres Hernández Law. The working group must include civil society organizations and specialists in the topics at hand.
4) The establishment of clear and firm punishments for all public servants who commit homophobic or discriminatory acts, especially when those acts cause people to become victims of those discriminatory crimes.
5) That the Human Rights Commission create a specialized office for topics related to Sexual and Reproductive Rights, with an expert staff, an appropriate budget, and a public agenda which has been discussed and approved of by Civil Society Organizations.
6) That the State Attorney General open a specialized agency for gender-based crimes, with focuses on feminicide and hate crimes including homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and lesbophobia; with a trained staff; and with a designated, appropriate, sufficient budget.
7) That the State Governor once and for all decree May 17th to be the State Day Against Homophobia, with organized activities and a state-wide budget to fight this atrocious problem.
8) That all public agencies within each state municipality implement permanent training programs on sexual diversity for their staff, to be planned and regulated by a multilateral agency, including participation by civil society organizations.
9) That there are guarantees and protection for those of us who dedicate ourselves to the defense of Human Rights in Puebla; this includes not only responsive actions, but, more importantly, preventative measures.
10) Given present Mexican electoral context (2012 is an election year), we want to be clear that we reject possible political or partisan gain with this citizen-directed document.
Comité Orgullo Puebla (Puebla Pride Committee)
Observatorio Ciudadano de Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos AC (Citizen Observation Group for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, Civil Association)
Vida Plena, No dejarse es Incluirse AC (Full Life, Civil Association)
Erósfera, Centro de Atención e Incidencia para la Salud y los Derechos Sexuales AC (Erósfera, Attention and Incidence Center for Sexual Health and Rights, Civil Association)
Red Democracia y Sexualidad (The Democracy and Sexuality Network)
El Taller Centro de Sensibilización y Educación Humana AC (The Public Awareness and Human Education and Workshop Center, Civil Association)
Asociación Jurídica Juvenil de Puebla AC (Puebla Youth Legal Association, Civil Association)
Red por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos en México-Puebla (Sexual and Reproductive Rights Network in Mexico-Puebla)
*LGBTTTI means lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, transvestite and inter-sex; it is a preferred acronym to refer to people on the sexuality spectrum or the gender-identity spectrum who are not heterosexual and/or gendernormative. A similar acronym commonly used in the US is LGBTQIA, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or asexual.
The term #AgnesTorres became a trending topic on Twitter on Monday afternoon March 12 after the human rights activist was found murdered, victim of a presumed hate crime in the state of Puebla, Mexico. The State Attorney General’s office confirmed the murder of Agnes Torres Hernandez, also known as Agnes Torres Sulca, political activist and psychologist who worked for sexual and reporductive rights, and began a preliminary investigation on Monday. The autopsy confirmed that Torres had bled to death after her throat was slit; her body was found near a highway in the state of Puebla, Mexico.
Publicity surrounding the case began on Facebook and Twitter when Torres was reported missing. Members of human rights groups, feminist groups, and gender and sexuality resource groups posted and shared photographs of Torres asking for information about her whereabouts. Friends of Torres began the postings after realizing that she had not been seen since Friday night, when she left for a party in Chipilo, a town near Atlixco.
After her body was found on Saturday afternoon and identified by family members on Sunday, the pleas for information changed to memorials and calls for action. The gender-rights defender was widely believed to be the victim of a hate crime because she was transgender and advocated for equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people as well as gender equality and reproductive rights.
Fueled by interest on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a large crowd gathered in the Zócalo central square in the state capital Puebla on Monday afternoon to remember Torres and protest violence against minority groups in Mexico.
The protesters, who according to news reports numbered between two hundred and one thousand, filled the central square with pictures of Torres, art, candles, and signs that read “La homosexualidad no es una enfermedad, la homofobia sí,” (Homosexuality is not a disease, homophobia is.) Members of the crowd also taped signs to the walls of the buildings that border the central square: “Exigimos justicia,” (We demand justice) “¿Cuántas más?” (How many more?) “No somos todas; faltan nuestras muertas,” (This isn’t all of us; our dead are missing.)
The crowd chanted “va caer, va caer, la homofobía va caer.” (It will fall, it will fall, homophobia will fall.) Instead of a minute of silence, the demonstrators had a minute of applause to remember and celebrate Torres’ life. After filling the square for two hours, the group marched to the state government offices in downtown Puebla.
Word of Torres’ death spread quickly through social media, allowing the protest to be organized within about 24 hours. On Monday night Twitter users were writing about plans for protests and memorials in other Mexican cities such as Xalapa and Guadalajara.
“People should know about her. #AgnesTorres she was a daughter, she was a friend, she was a professional, she was human being. She is no longer with us. She was murdered”
-@mtorch on Twitter
Messages were directed at politicians such as state governor Rafael Moreno Valle asking him to take action to prevent hate crimes in the state. Tweets expressed a range of emotions from grief to anger and indignation.
Angry comments on Twitter also centered around a user who tweeted that Torres had deserved to die. The account purported to belong to Juan Pablo Castro, a young man who had earlier in the week been forced to apologize for using a derogatory slang word for homosexuals at a political event for young people in the congress building in Mexico City. However the account tweeting about Agnes Torres contained a slight variation in spelling from the real Juan Pablo Castro’s account name (substituting a capital i for an l) leading many to believe that it was a case of stolen identity. The fake Castro account continued to tweet negative comments about Torres throughout the evening. Perhaps in response to the backlash against “Castro,” other politicians took to Twitter on Monday evening to condemn Torres’ murder.
People attending the protest also tweeted that the body of César González Martínez, a gay man, had just been found in Momoxpan, Puebla, at 2 PM that afternoon. Some news outlets reported that including Agnes Torres, there had been three murders attributed to homophobia in Puebla so far in 2012; activist groups, some represented by Ibrahim Zamora and the organization “De Ser” (To Be), claimed that there have been six homicides of members of the gay community in Puebla so far this year.
According to the autopsy performed by the coroner, the cause of Torres’ death was hypovolemic shock caused by beheading with a sharp weapon. The autopsy was performed as part of the preliminary investigation into case number AP/406/2012/Atlixco. News reports also stated that part of the body had been burned.
In addition to working as an activist, Torres was a psychologist specializing in gender identity. She was 28 years old.