Paramilitary groups, formed to counter the FARC and other left-wing guerrillas, have been responsible for the most brutal of these crimes, the report shows.
One of the most emblematic cases of paramilitary abuse happened in San Onofre, a small town in Sucre, a northern state. Gay men and a few transgender women were forced to participate in a boxing competition as a form of public humiliation, Fernández said.
The idea, Fernández explained, was to force these men to “bring out their masculinity” through the use of violence and physical domination — traits traditionally associated with manhood.
Fernando Moreno, a 31-year-old gay man who was born and raised in San Onofre, was forced twice to participate in these competitions
“They told us that it was in our best interest to go. That they would not be responsible for what would happen to us if we didn’t,” he said. “Who is going to say no under those circumstances?”
“They told us that it was in our best interest to go. That they would not be responsible for what would happen to us if we didn’t.”
Fernando said that in one of the competitions the paramilitary members forced him to fight against his best friend. He said that they were trying not to hurt each other, but the militants kept telling them that the consequences of not fighting would be much worse than punching each other.
Militants in San Onofre exercised controlled over the LGBT population in other ways as well. Following a common practice among paramilitary groups around the country, they distributed pamphlets that promised to cleanse the town from “undesired members of society,” including drug addicts, criminals and members of the LGBT community, Fernando said.
Fernando talks about how it feels like to be seen as an undesired member of society
Although the pamphlets were deeply disturbing, it wasn’t until he was personally threatened by one of the fighters that he decided to move to Medellín, the second biggest city in Colombia, he said.
“He told me that if I was alive to go to bed that night, he would make sure I wasn’t alive to wake up the next morning,” Fernando said. “I talked to my parents that day and, with a lot of pain in my heart, I decided to move away. I knew it would break their heart to watch me leave, but I also knew it would be less painful than watching me get killed.”
There were more than 120 reported threats against LGBT Colombians between 2012 and 2015, according to the Colombia Diversa study. Additionally, the number of threats increased by 50 percent between 2014 and 2015.
Reported threats between 2012 and 2015
Increase in threats between 2014 and 2015
Of the 47 threats reported last year, 15 were committed by the paramilitaries or armed groups linked to paramilitarism.