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Mexico: Former congressman convicted for saying trans deputy is a "self-described woman"

The sentence against Rodrigo Iván Cortés and his foundation includes a fine, a public request for forgiveness and mandatory attendance to a course on gender-based political violence.

Rodrigo Ivan Cortes.

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Former Mexican Deputy Rodrigo Iván Cortés was convicted for a series of social media posts in which he referred to Salma Luévano, a trans deputy from Morena, as a "self-described woman."

The Superior Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal confirmed in early August the accusations against Cortés on five charges: gender-based political violence, digital violence, symbolic violence, psychological violence, and sexual violence.

Cortes must pay a fine of 19,244 Mexican pesos (about $1,130). Each day for 30 days, he must post a judicial resolution and an apology drafted by the court on his Facebook and X accounts, according to his legal team.

The National Front for the Family, an organization led by Cortés that was also sued, is already complying with this last part of the sentence on its X account:

In another post, the National Front for the Family shared part of the court decision. In it, the court addresses and thanks Silvina Luévano Luna: "Thank you for raising your voice, and may it always echo." The court also requires the former MP to "become aware of the damage" he has done:

We ask Rodrigo Iván Cortés to be educated with readings and courses to prevent him from repeating these behaviors against you or any other woman or trans person or the LGBTTTIQA+ community ... and become aware of the damage generated towards you.

Likewise, Cortés will have to attend a course on gender-based political violence and join a public list of people sanctioned for "political violence against women based on gender."

The case against Cortés

Salma Luévano attended the Mexican Chamber of Deputies on Sept. 21, 2022 dressed as a bishop to criticize religious leaders — "mostly upper-class white cisgender men" — and introduce amendments to the law on religious associations and public worship, with the aim of adding provisions on "hate speech."

Cortés then made a series of posts, in one of which he referred to Luna as "a man who describes himself a woman, who demands respect, but is just what he does not give. He asks for what he does not give, with tremendous disrespect," according to a local magazine. The National Front for the Family reportedly wrote that "trans Deputy Salma Luévano ... offends believers of one religion but insults all Christians."

"The real purpose of this sentence is to silence me so that I do not say what all concerned citizens need to hear," Cortés said after learning of the decision regarding Luévano's lawsuit. He further pointed out:

These actions and proposed laws are pushing a radical agenda in Mexico, which represents a very serious threat to the well-being of our society, especially our children.

"Freedom of expression is under threat in Mexico right now," said Kristina Hjelkrem, a legal adviser at ADF International who helped with the defense. "Increasingly, we see Mexico violating its citizens' fundamental and constitutional right to freedom of expression." She added:

Cortés protested peacefully in support of an obvious truth, and for this he has been convicted of gender-based political violence and subjected to harsh penalties. Censorship is not compatible with a free society.

International retaliation

Throughout the month of August, the sentence against Cortés generated international controversy. Writer and political scientist Agustín Laje was among the critical voices:

Orwellian: [Cortés] has been CONDEMNED in Mexico for “gender-based political violence.” What did he do? He referred to a transgender person as a "man who self-identifies as a woman." In addition to paying a lot of money, he will be added to of a list of people guilty of "gender violence." I have been saying it for years: gender ideology is a frontal attack on the freedom to tell nothing less than the truth.

"Right out of 1984," opined political philosopher David Thunder. He also commented that "it would be comical" if this ruling did not imply that the right to freedom of expression is "legally sanctioned in some countries. ... And what the hell is 'political gender violence'?" he asked, before adding: "It's the kind of fabricated crime one could imagine from the Communist Party in Stalinist Russia."

Martha Cecilia, founder of the international network Familia Ecuador, said Cortés and his organization had been "gagged" by the "ideological whims of those who like to get away with trampling on common sense."

Lawyer and expert in international law Fernando Guzmán also took to his social media to criticize the sentence:

Rodrigo Iván Cortés is being persecuted because he dared to disagree and point out who, from the podium of the Chamber of Deputies, offended millions of Catholics disguised as a "Bishop" and presented an initiative to impose a single thought even in churches. Enough!!