Metro Weekly

Transgender woman fined for violating Panama’s gender-based COVID-19 rules

Panama does not recognize trans people's gender identity unless they have undergone surgery

trans, transgender, panama, covid-19
Bárbara Delgado – Photo via Human Rights Watch.

A transgender health outreach worker in Panama has been fined for venturing out on the “wrong day” under the government’s new gender-based quarantine rules, according to Human Rights Watch.

Bárbara Delgado was distributing food near her home last week when she was detained by police for going out on a day designated for women.

Under the country’s quarantine rules to stop the spread of COVID-19, women may only venture out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are reserved for men, and no one can go out on Sundays.

Because Panama only recognizes a transgender person’s gender identity if they have undergone gender confirmation surgery, Delgado’s identity documents display her assigned sex at birth. That means authorities were permitted to detain Delgado because they believed that she was violating the quarantine order.

Delgado was also accused of breaking rules that determine specific times when people of a certain gender are permitted to leave their homes.

Because Delgado had not yet been issued a transit pass by the clinic where she worked when the quarantine rules went into effect, police were allowed to stop her and three others for venturing out at a non-designated time, reports CBS News.

Police ultimately sent home the other three volunteers, but took Delgado into custody. She was eventually released after paying a $50 fine.

“She was treated differently from the other people that were out,” Cristian González Cabrera, an LGBT researcher at Human Rights Watch, told CBS News.

“She was brought to the police station, and she was there for three hours, where she also suffered more discrimination at the hands of the justice of the peace, because he also accused her of not being a woman,” González Cabrera added. “That shows how trans people are treated differently in Panama in the context of this gender-based quarantine.”

González Cabrera said there have been at least three other cases where transgender people were discriminated against for allegedly violating the quarantine’s gender rules.

Panama hasn’t issued any guidance for what transgender or nonbinary people should do in the context of the quarantine, but González Cabrera says without those guidelines, transgender people face a great deal of uncertainty.

“Bárbara went out on the day for women even though her ID says male. The other transgender people actually went out on the day dictated by their ID and they also suffered discrimination,” he said. “So you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t in this context.”

Read more:

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Advocates fear North Carolina schools’ virtual learning system will “out” transgender students

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