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Argentina’s LGBTIQA+ community blame government after three lesbians murdered

LGBTIQA+ rights activists in Argentina have accused the country’s far-right government of promoting homophobia after three lesbians were murdered in an arson attack.

Warning: This story has comments which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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On May 6th a man in his 60’s allegedly started a fire in a Buenos Aires boarding house by throwing burning rags into a room occupied by four gay women.

The accused man Justo Fernando Barrientos allegedly fought with the women to stop them escaping the inferno. He later fled to the roof where he allegedly attempted to commit suicide before being detained by authorities.

Pamela Fabiana Cobas, 52, died in the fire, her partner, Mecedes Roxana Figuero, also 52, died later in hospital having suffered burns to 90 per cent of her body.

Andrea Amarante, 42, suffered burns to 75% of her body and died six days later on 12 May. A fourth victim, 49-year-old Sofia Castro Riglos, remains in hospital.

The fire saw thirty people evacuated from the building, and seven other people were hospitalised with burns.

On Monday 14th May over 200 protesters took to the streets accusing the government of Javier Milei of stoking homophobia in society, saying it was a factor in the deaths in the three women.

Human rights organisations have raised concern that the government’s action have led to the closing of spaces where people could feel safe and there is a growing level of violence directed at members of the LGBTIQA+ communities.

Since coming to power the Milei government has closed the country’s National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, and has also banned the use of gender inclusive language within the military.

The 2023 report from Buenos Aires’ LGBT ombudsman found that offensive speech by members of President Javier Milei’s political party, as well as on social media and in the streets, in the context of the 2023 presidential campaign “built a climate of segregation, rejection and discrimination; the most fertile ground for violence toward historically vulnerable groups.”

Human Rights Watch has drawn attention to the case saying authorities in Argentina should conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the killings and ensure proper medical care and housing for the surviving woman.

“Government officials should cease and condemn rhetoric that stigmatises queer women and may contribute to a climate in which they are seen as deserving of violence.” they said.


If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGEDinfo@discharged.asn.au / discharged.asn.au
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au

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