Trans woman distributing food in Panama fined for breaching gender-based lockdown

'Panama needs to address the draconian gender recognition procedure that inadvertently led to this incident,' says campaigner

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Sunday 12 April 2020 16:51 BST
Barbara Delgado, who is a health outreach worker, was detained by police for three hours
Barbara Delgado, who is a health outreach worker, was detained by police for three hours (Human Rights Watch)

A transgender woman fighting on the front lines to tackle the coronavirus crisis has been hit with a fine in Panama for breaching the government’s fiercely-criticised gender-based lockdown rules.

Panama’s government has implemented stringent new measures since the beginning of April which ban men and women from leaving the house to go shopping for essential items at the same time.

The rules, which disregard non-binary people, permit women to do shopping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Men, on the other hand, are only allowed to purchase essential supplies on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

People are also highly restricted about the times of the day they are allowed to leave their home – with the time slot linked to the last digit of passports or ID cards.

Barbara Delgado, who is a health outreach worker, was detained by police for three hours and hit with a $50 fine for being out on a day which the authorities have classified as a day for women to be out.

Ms Delgado, a trans woman who said she had a permit letter from the medical centre where she works as a volunteer, had been distributing food near her home.

“Delgado was made to pay a $50 fine for violating quarantine measures and was released after three long, humiliating hours,” Cristian Gonzalez Cabrera, an LGBT researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.

“In a country where, in contravention of international human rights law, modifying legal gender on official documents requires sex reassignment surgery, gender-based quarantine measures will almost certainly result in discrimination against transgender persons like Delgado. Panamanian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organisations have called for a gender and diversity perspective to inform measures in response to the pandemic.

“The National Police should also adopt a protocol affirming that quarantine enforcement measures will be sensitive to transgender people’s realities so that other trans Panamanians are spared the harassment Delgado experienced. Ultimately, Panama needs to address the draconian gender recognition procedure that inadvertently led to this incident.”

Mr Cabrera has documented three more cases of transgender people facing discrimination in the wake of gender-based lockdown measures which have been criticised by LGBT+ groups.

Panama’s president Laurentino Cortizo wrote on Twitter: “The great quantity of people circulating outside their homes, despite the obligatory national quarantine, has led the national government to take more severe measures”.

Some 3,234 coronavirus cases and 79 deaths have been recorded in Panama as of Saturday.

Peru has also imposed lockdown guidelines which force men and women to leave their house on different days of the week.

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