On the anniversary of Jennifer Laude’s death, the women of AF3IRM salute her family, friends, and supporters who fight for justice in her name. As you gather in Olongapo City today, we join you in expressing outrage and join your calls for the conviction of her murderer. We also raise our voices in opposition to the United States subversion of Philippine sovereignty and its protection of Jennifer’s murderer, despite his own admission of guilt and the evidence against him.
In court, US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton admitted to choking Jennifer, a transwoman. Yet his defense refuses to take the responsibility for her murder and instead tries to play victim. To justify violence against transwomen with the irrational fear of rape and a “trans panic” defense is perverted. One’s gender or sexuality is not an excuse for murder or violence of any kind!
Unfortunately, we in AF3IRM are not surprised that the US has taken this position. Here in the United States, there have been 20 transgender women, mostly women of color, killed this year alone. Within our own courts, the invocation of a “panic” defense in cases of violence against transgender people is admissible in every state except California. The discrimination and attacks on the lives and bodies of women, especially transwomen of color, have only intensified.
It is also no surprise to us that the US is so blatantly exporting its disregard for the lives of transgender women. Misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia continue to be taught and upheld by US imperialism, especially through its military. We again assert that the hostility toward the two-spirited is a colonial imposition, strengthened by the gender binary that imperialism uses to maintain wage slavery and oppression. This hostility is in opposition to native culture of the Philippines and its recognition of genders not within the gender binary system.
Indeed, the case of Jennifer Laude is emblematic of the long history of US colonialism and imperialism in the Philippines. Make no mistake – the subversion of justice for Jennifer is just another example of the imposition of US imperialist rule over the Philippines. They would not even release Pemberton to Philippine authorities and instead house him in their own detention facility. It is clear that the United States does not respect Philippine sovereignty and only use the Visiting Forces Agreement and Mutual Defense Treaty to re-enforce US occupation as they try to protect their own military and corporate interests.
As we come together across borders and mark one year since Jennifer’s death, we challenge US imperialism, because each day that passes without Pemberton’s conviction is another day with injustice. Living in the United States, we in AF3IRM renew our commitment to fight for Jennifer and all victims of discrimination, violence and exploitation. Know that we are with you.
With this renewed commitment, we will continue to rally against the US imperialism. We will continue to fight against gender-based violence and hate crimes. We will continue to seek justice and to affirm the value of women’s lives. We know that none of us are free, until all of us are free. Our struggles as transnational, women of color in the United States are deeply entwined with the struggles of women the world over and our collective resistance is key to our liberation.
Onward to the liberation of women and humanity!