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Trans woman fined for violating Panama's gender-based coronavirus lockdown, rights group says

London —  Bárbara Delgado, a trans woman and health outreach worker, was distributing food near her home in Panama last week when she was detained by police for being out on the "wrong day" under the government's new, gender-based quarantine rules, the rights group Human Rights Watch told CBS News.

To slow the spread of COVID-19, the government of Panama on April 1 imposed new lockdown measures that only allow men and women to leave their homes on alternate days of the week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are for women. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are for men. No one can go out on Sundays.

Authorities have the power to confirm a person's gender identity — and thus, whether they are in violation of quarantine — by checking their official documentation. In Panama, trans people can't legally change their sex unless they have had sex reassignment surgery, so many trans people, like Delgado, are stuck in limbo .

"She was treated differently from the other people that were out"

In addition to only being able to go out on certain days determined by gender, each person has allocated times they are permitted to leave their homes that are based on their national ID numbers. On the first day of the lockdown, Delgado had not yet been issued a transit pass by the clinic where she worked, and was stopped by the police for being out outside of her allotted window, along with three others.

The others, who had not been doing volunteer work, were told to go home by police.  Delgado, however, was brought back to the station.

"She was treated differently from the other people that were out," Cristian González Cabrera, an LGBT researcher at Human Rights Watch, told CBS News.

"She was brought to the police station, and she was there for three hours, where she also suffered more discrimination at the hands of the justice of the peace, because he also accused her of not being a woman," Cabrera said.

Delgado was eventually released after paying a fine equivalent to $50.

Trans woman Bárbara Delgado was detained by police for violating Panama's gender-based quarantine. Bárbara Delgado via Human Rights Watch

"You're damned if you do, damned if you don't"

"That shows how trans people are treated differently in Panama in the context of this gender-based quarantine," Cabrera told CBS News.

Since the lockdown came into effect in Panama, Cabrera has documented three more cases of trans people being discriminated against because of the gender rules.

"They all left (their homes) on the day dictated by the gender marker on their ID, but when they tried to go to the supermarket in two of the cases and the bank in one case, they were met with discrimination by either police officers or security agents," Cabrera said.

Panama hasn't issued any guidance for what trans or non-binary people should do in the context of the gender-based quarantine rules, but Cabrera hopes it will.

"Bárbara went out on the day for women even though her ID says male. The other transgender people actually went out on the day dictated by their ID and they also suffered discrimination. So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't in this context," he said.

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