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Trans woman falls foul of Panama’s gender-based quarantine rule

Trans woman falls foul of Panama’s gender-based quarantine rule

  • Panama is only allowing men and women out of their homes on different days.
Pride in Panama City

A trans woman has ended up in court due to Panama’s unusual quarantine rules which only allow men and women to leave their homes on different days.

Under the Ministry of Health rules, women may do essential shopping on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Men can go out for the same reasons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. And nobody may leave home on Sundays.

Moreover, the time of day you are allowed out of your home depends on the last digit of your national identification card or passport.

Panama officials say it is the ‘simplest’ way to reduce the number of people on the streets.

But transgender activists warned the rules, which came into force this week, would trip up trans people.

Now events have proved them right. Police detained a transgender woman on Wednesday (1 April), alleging she was male and ‘out on the wrong day’.

Court accused her of not being a woman

Cristian González Cabrera of Human Rights Watch describes what happened to trans woman Bárbara Delgado: 

‘She left her house on Wednesday morning, a women’s day, outside of the allotted time for her identification number, to attend a medical center near her home, where she volunteers as a health outreach worker.

‘She said the center had not yet issued her a letter of transit and she planned to explain that she was a volunteer and needed to get to work if stopped.

‘Soon after leaving home, two police officers stopped Delgado, along with two men and a woman, all quarantine offenders.

‘The police let the others go with a warning, but detained Delgado, apparently because the “male” gender marker on her ID did not match her appearance.

‘At the police station, she said, a justice of the peace accused her of not being a woman and remarked it was good that she had been taken in. Delgado was made to pay a US$50 fine for violating quarantine measures and was released after three long, humiliating hours.’

Call to update ‘draconian’ gender recognition laws

Panama does has let transgender people change their legal gender and name on their birth certificates since 2006. However, it is a long procedure and requires them to have gender confirmation surgery.

Now Panamanian LGBT+ organizations are warning the gender-based quarantine will discriminate against more trans people.

They say police should take into account the gender people are living in rather than rely on their documents when controlling the quarantine.

And ultimately they want the central American country to update its ‘draconian’ gender recognition laws.

Overall, LGBT+ rights are gradually advancing in Panama. Gay sex is legal and the country has an equal age of consent. Meanwhile, court rulings may soon make same-sex marriage and joint adoption legal. However, there are no legal anti-discrimination protections.

In fact, Panama is not the only country where the rules may trip up transgender people. Peru in South America has also imposed a gender based quarantine.

In Peru, women can do essential tasks on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and men on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Again, nobody can leave their homes on Sunday.