There were 16 LGBTQ-related murders or violent deaths last year.

2019 was the deadliest year on record for Ecuador’s LGBTQ community, with 16 LGBTQ-related murders or violent deaths. In 2018, there were only two murders or violent deaths that targeted the LGBTQ community.

The figures were released by the LGBTQ group Silueta X Association, and they said most of the victims were trans women. Although it’s unknown why there was a spike in attacks, some have speculated it’s to do with the LGBTQ community gaining more rights, same-sex marriage was legalised in the country last year.

Activists note that the amount of LGBTQ murders also increased the year after homosexuality was legalised in the country.

Diane Rodriguez, Ecuador’s first transgender legislator and director of the Silueta X Association, told Reuters: “As the year went on, we were realising that the statistics of murders were terrible.

“It’s tough seeing images of someone looking happy on social media, and then all of a sudden they’re gone.”

Javier Corrales, an LGBTQ rights expert, agreed that the killings could be linked to better LGBTQ rights, saying: “When there is a major change in public policy toward LGBT communities … homophobic and transphobic arguments increase in frequency and maybe even intensity.

“We have reason to think that an expansion of hate speech can lead to increases in hate crimes.”

Recently, new data from the FBI, shows that out of the 7,120 hate crimes that were committed in the United States last year, nearly one in five of them had been motivated by an “anti-LGBTQ bias.”

Out of the incidents last year, people were targeted because of their sexual orientation 1,196 times, while 168 were targeted because of their gender identity.

Breaking the figures down even more, 726 men were targeted because they were gay, 129 women were targeted for being a lesbian, 303 were targeted for being LGBTQ and 21 people were targeted for being bisexual. A further 17 people were targeted because they were straight.

Meanwhile, 142 people were targeted because of their trans identity, while 26 were targeted because of their gender non-conforming identity.