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U.S. Marine Walks Free for Killing of Transgender Woman

U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton was pardoned for the killing of a trans woman Jennifer Laude in 2014 by the Philippine president as reported by TIME Magazine.

His pardon was a result of mistreatment from his early release from prison. Pemberton had up to 10 years to serve for the murder of Laude. She was killed upon Pemberton’s realization that she was a transgender woman. Her death was a result of hatred that somehow continues to spare the lives of the ones endorsing heinous crimes like this. Pemberton’s “good conduct” allowed for his sentence to be shortened but the Philippine president took the extra step to release him.

As Ms. Laude’s family grieves, her killer walks free and unaccountable for his actions.

The façade of Pemberton’s release being a move of “justice” is completely one-sided and indeed a “shameful mockery” as human rights group Karapatan put it. A woman was killed because of her identity and her killer is walking free. Unfortunately, this issue is not uncommon nor unique to the Philippines.

Filipino members of the LGBTQ community lack true civil rights and are rather tolerated than truly accepted in society. Same-sex marriage has been proposed but not implemented and the group just received a bill of rights in 2017.

President Duterte’s decision disregarded the work Filipino LGBTQ members have been trying to establish for years: justice and acceptance. He sent home a US marine returning to a country where trans people have been killed two at a time for the past three months.

The Human Rights Campaign reported over 28 trans people killed in 2020 in the U.S. Majority of those murders are not resolved, and the families of the victims continue to fight for justice. Many stories of the death of trans people go unnoticed by the public. However, it was an outstandingly absurd decision for the leader of a country to pardon a criminal which is why the story spread across media platforms globally.

The issue of disregarding trans lives remains on a global scale. Take Indonesia for instance. Lawmakers are working harder to force LGBTQ members into “rehabilitation” instead of legislation to give them human rights.

Many countries in Africa including Sudan and Algeria criminalize the LGBT community, resulting in severe punishments for same-sex couples and trans people. Only recently have a few countries like Gabon and Botswana decriminalized the community.

There must be higher standards set toward protecting the civil rights and lives of trans people. If trans people were truly accepted into society and properly protected by the government, their deaths would not go shelved and their killers would not be walking free, even if the murder happened outside of the country. The lack of accountability for the violence against trans people raises the question of how many steps forward or backward have been taken in the fight for transgender rights.

Featured Image by Lina Kivaka on

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