The Panamanian government faced criticism over discrimination of the transgender community after security officials in Panama detained six transgender people for allegedly violating COVID-19 curfew rules based on gender.
Panama has been fervently trying to tackle its rising number of COVID-19 cases but its efforts by the government has led to a slew of transphobic incidents between the authorities and the trans community.
On April 1, the government imposed new lockdown measures that only allow men and women to leave their homes on alternate days of the week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays were for women. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were for men, with no one allowed to leave their homes on Sundays.
Panama has more than 40,000 confirmed cases and more than 800 reported deaths, according to Council of the Americas.
The quarantine led to the detainment of several trans residents who may have had a gender identity or expression that may not match the “female” or “male” sex marker on their identification documents, says Human Rights Watch.
Panama then issued a statement via its Public Security Ministry, vowing to tackle the discriminatory policy.
“The government’s statement is an important recognition of the discrimination transgender people have faced under the quarantine enforcement measures,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Panama’s leadership has expressed a commitment to address discriminatory practices by security agents, and we will continue to monitor the situation to make sure the new policy is carried out.”
The country’s Minister of Interior, Carlos Moran, later announced that citizens’ gender would be identified visually, with no need to ask for identification, but reports of discrimination and harassment against the trans community at the hands of Paman’s law enforcement continued.
Simply put, the gender-based curfew was not fit for purpose.
On June 8, Panama replaced its gender-based quarantine schedule in response to COVID-19, with a curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. The new measure states that anyone can leave their home during permitted times but must wear a protective mask and maintain a distance from other people who are not from their household in indoor and outdoor spaces.
Peru and the Colombian capital of Bogota also implemented gender-based curfews in a bid to flatten the curve in the fight against COVID-19, but have since scrapped the controversial policy.