This report presents information on public opinion about transgender people and their rights in Peru. We analyzed data from 2017 The Global Attitudes Toward Transgender People survey, Peru panel, to provide new information on views toward transgender people, their rights, and their status in society. In Peru, public policies protecting the rights of transgender people are almost non-existent. Transgender people in Peru live in a state of exclusion, marginalization, and resilience, where they continue to fight to be recognized and access fundamental rights. Although the most recent National Human Rights Plan (2018-2021), used by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights as guidance for public policy, recognizes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) population as a vulnerable group,Peru lacks policies that recognize transgender and other gender minority people, and no law protects people against discrimination based on their gender identity (or sexual orientation). Likewise, hate crime laws in Peru do not recognize crimes directed at transgender people on the basis of gender identity.
Corresponding to transgender people’s limited legal rights in Peru, transgender people experience disparities, relative to cisgender people, in accessing basic rights such as health, education, or employment. These disparities are likely exacerbated by the obstacles transgender people experience due to the state’s failure to recognize transgender people’s gender identity in legal identity documents, such as the Documento Nacional de Identidad (“National Identity Document” [DNI]). This creates an ongoing conflict between one’s lived identity and official identity, generating an everyday situation of distress. In addition, some transgender people lack a DNI altogether—for example, more than 10% of transgender women in Peru report not having a DNI, a figure ten times higher than that reported in the general population.
A study carried out by Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) estimated that there are 22,500 transgender women living in Lima, a city of 10 million people. There are no estimates for other cities, and none for transgender men. Studies on employment, education, or health, some carried out in Peru in the context of health research, give a picture of social exclusion. Dropping out of school is significant among this population. Due to discrimination and lack of opportunities, sex work—carried out mainly in the street in precarious conditions—is a primary source of income for many transgender women (70%, measured in several cities). Lack of opportunities for economic development drives migration into Lima, and the vast majority of these migrants are in sex work; many are minors and victims of sexual exploitation.
Access to health care is also limited. Transgender women are the population most vulnerable to HIV in Peru, resulting from a combination of factors at the structural (discrimination, transphobia, marginalization), interpersonal (sex work, self-seeking behavior outside the health system), and individual level (sexual behaviors, substance use). Although information about transgender men in Peru is scarce, transgender men also face barriers regarding access to education and health, in addition to experiences of discrimination and violence.
Despite these challenges, transgender women and men have demonstrated great resilience. There are several community-based organizations that advocate for transgender rights and carry out activities to support their peers. These organizations and activists form solidarity networks—especially among transgender women that live together or in the same neighborhoods—where people organize to cope with situations such as medical emergencies or supporting a victim of violence. At the same time, transgender people have become more visible while demanding recognition and the guarantee of their fundamental rights. In December 2016, Red Trans Peru (a transgender women community-based organization) together with two congresswomen presented a proposal for a Gender Identity Law. However, the bill has not been discussed further, and its chance of being approved during the current congressional period, ending in 2021, is very low.
Although there have been efforts to analyze public opinion focused on sexual orientation, such as a 2019 survey carried out by Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP), there has been no study of transgender individuals. The Global Attitudes Toward Transgender People survey is the first initiative in Peru documenting public perception of transgender people and their rights.