Students Examine Climate for LGBT and HIV Population in El Salvador

Published: March 21, 2011

Students with Berkeley Law’s International Human Rights Law Clinic (IHRLC) have returned from a fact-finding mission to El Salvador, where they examined the difficult climate for the country’s LGBT and HIV-positive population.

During their six-day visit, Diya Malani ’11 and Maria Rosa Meza ’11 met with local advocates, public officials, and community members to document human rights abuses and identify gaps in legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive Salvadorans. The students conducted hours of interviews and gathered legal documents and statistics.

“The advocates we met with all emphasized police brutality and harassment as major issues facing the LGBT community,” Malani said. “They also described the authorities’ indifference in responding to abuses suffered by this population.”

The students were supervised by IHRLC Clinical Instructor Allison Davenport ’04 and East Bay Community Law Center Staff Attorney and Clinical Instructor Linda Tam ’00. Findings from the trip will guide a new project with Salvadoran advocates, lawyers, and law students to provide pro bono legal services to LGBT and HIV-positive people. The findings will also be included in a forthcoming IHRLC report.

In addition to supporting efforts within El Salvador to coordinate legal education to the LGBT and HIV communities, the clinic hopes to help provide direct representation to individuals who have experienced rights violations. “It’s something the community desperately needs and has never had available,” Davenport said.

During one focus group session, participants told stories of harassment and discrimination—and cited significant barriers in getting health care, education, and employment.

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