The United Nations human rights office today urged the Government of El Salvador to take urgent measures to protect a prominent transgender human rights defender, Karla Avelar, and other activists and individuals working on similar issues.

The vulnerability of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in El Salvador is of deep concern,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) told reporters in Geneva.

She noted that since the beginning of this year, at least seven transgender people were killed in El Salvador.

Ms. Avelar, who has been shot and seriously wounded multiple times, was most recently threatened at the end of April and forced to flee her home for a sixth time in two years.

“We urge the Government of El Salvador to take urgent measures to ensure the protection of Ms. Avelar and other LGBTI activists and individuals who are under threat,” Ms. Shamdasani said, “including by establishing an effective protection mechanism for human rights defenders working on sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTI activists.”

More than half of transwomen surveyed in an annual 2016 report in El Salvador have received death threats, according to the Ombudsman’s Office in that country.

OHCHR linked the high rate with a lack of prompt and effective investigations into LGBTI-related crimes.

Ms. Shamdasani said the UN office, which is closely following the situation from its Central American office, calls on the Government “to conduct prompt, thorough and effective investigations into hate crimes against the LGBTI community.”