By Nicole Acevedo
In a historic ruling, Colombia prosecuted the murder of a transgender woman as a femicide.
Colombia instituted its femicide law — also known as the “Ley Rosa Elvira Cely,” named after a woman who was brutally killed and raped in 2012.
Under the Rosa Elvira Cely law, the killing of a woman for simply being a woman or for how she expresses her gender identity or sexual orientation is considered a femicide.
Davinson Stiven Erazo Sánchez, 23, was sentenced to twenty years in a psychiatric center for “aggravated femicide”— a year after he fatally shot Anyela Ramos Claros, a transgender woman who used to run her own beauty salon.
Ramos Claros is one of at least 35 trans women who have been killed in Colombia over the past year, according to numbers from Colombia Diversa, a LGBT rights group.
Colombia passed the law back in 2015 to combat the country’s high levels of violence against women by imposing tougher punishments on those who kill women and girls.
Before the femicide law, 8,020 women were killed in Colombia between 2009 and 2014 — an average of four women per day — according to Medicina Legal, Colombia’s main forensics science center.
Many advocates and LGBT rights supporters like Colombia Diversa see Erazo Sánchez’s sentencing as an “acknowledgement of Anyela as a woman” that also recognizes that trans women are also victims of this type of gender violence.
“This shows a change in the way the judiciary and the prosecution are dealing with crimes based on prejudice. Clearly, there’s still much to be done in both the State and civil society; we are willing to contribute what we can,” said the lawyers who represented Ramos Claros’ family in a statement provided to Colombia Diversa.
Reliable statistics documenting various forms of violence against women are in short supply, due in part to victims’ fears of coming forward. But the few numbers that do exist point to an epidemic of gender-based physical attacks on women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, 10 of the 25 nations with the highest recorded rates of femicides are in Latin America with another four in the region.
Although the Colombian government is trying to take action against gender-based violence, the amount of women being killed in the country is still alarming.
Between Jan. of 2016 and Oct. of 2017, Medicina Legal has conducted at least 1,489 autopsies on women’s bodies whose deaths were deemed a homicide.
Kathleen Taylor, an expert on violence against women with the Latin American and Caribbean office of UN Women, the United Nations agency that addresses women’s rights, told NBC News in a previous interview that “many murders are not classified as femicides, even though they are.”
“We just don’t know the full impact [of misogynistic violence] because of the underreporting and misreporting,” she added.