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Brazil: LGBT Scene Under Discussion

With recent legal advances and a proposed bill that criminalises homophobia in the Brazilian Senate, cases of violence against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) groups and expressions of prejudice and heterosexism have come under focus. The online arena has been used to expose many reflections on the right to sexual orientation in the country.

Homophobic crimes in crescendo

In Brazil, sexual practices that differ from heterosexuality are often attacked with prejudice and violence. Homophobia, according to the LGBT Youth Association [pt], is “the fear and resulting contempt that some individuals feel towards homosexuals”, which leads them to repudiate homosexuals.

A tribute to LGBTs murdered in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, 10/11/2010. Photo by Flickr user André Gomes de Melo (SEASDH) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

A tribute to LGBTs murdered in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, 10/11/2010. Photo by Flickr user André Gomes de Melo (SEASDH) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

In early 2011, several attacks on homosexuals [pt] on Avenida Paulista, the main avenue of São Paulo, were reported. Groups of gay men were attacked [pt] and beaten with fluorescent lamps because of their sexual orientation and, in some cases, for walking hand in hand.

According to data from the Federal Government and non-governmental organisations that advocate for LGBT rights, each year homophobic crimes have been increasing in a frightening way. Over the past five years, the number of murders motivated by hatred of this minority grew by 113% [pt].

In 2009, 198 homicides with homophobic motivation were reported, according to [pt] the journalist Renato Rovai, who cites the Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals and Transexuals.

In 2010 at least 260 gays, lesbians and transvestites, died as a result of such motivations. The Bahia Gay Group (GGB), one of the biggest organizations that advocates for LGBT rights, denounces the numbers [pt]:

Dentre os mortos, 140 gays (54%), 110 travestis (42%) e 10 lésbicas (4%). O Brasil confirma sua posição de campeão mundial de assassinatos de homossexuais: nos Estados Unidos, com 100 milhões a mais de habitantes que nosso país, foram registrados 14 assassinatos de travestis em 2010, enquanto no Brasil, foram 110 homicídios.O risco de um homossexual ser assassinado no Brasil é 785% maior que nos Estados Unidos.

Among the dead, [there were] 140 gay men (54%), 110 transvestites (42%) and 10 lesbians (4%). Brazil confirms its position as the world champion of murders of homosexuals: in the United States, which has 100 million more people than our country, in 2010, 14 murders of transvestites were reported, while in Brazil, there were 110. The risk of a homosexual being murdered in Brazil is 785% higher than in the United States.

The figures of homophobic violence, however, are likely to be larger [pt], as many victims of abuse keep silent and never tell the police about what happened.

“Some prejudices only end with law”

"Some prejudices only end by law" - Act in repudiation of the homophobic crimes in Sao Paulo's Gay Parade, 2009. Photo by Marcel Maia in Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0

"Some prejudices only end with law" – an act repudiating homophobic crimes in São Paulo

Some of the major rights claims by LGBT groups in Brazil have seen considerable advances in recent years.

Recently, the National Insurance Institute recognized the right of homosexuals to include their stable partners as dependents and enjoy social security benefits, such as the death pension.

In February this year, federal deputy Jean Wyllys [pt] – the first openly homosexual member of the Brazilian parliament – said [pt] in his inaugural speech that he would present a Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC) guaranteeing the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples. Currently, in Brazil marriage between persons of the same sex does not legally exist, even if done in a country that recognizes it.

In the National Congress agenda from 2006, it is Bill 122 (PLC 122) that criminalizes homphobia. The PLC 122's proposal, according to the website Não Homofobia (No Homophobia) [pt], is to amend “Law no 7.716, from the 5th of January, 1989, defining prejudice or discrimination against gender, sex, sexual orientation and gender equality as a crime”:

Isto quer dizer que todo cidadão ou cidadã que sofrer discriminação por causa de sua orientação sexual e identidade de gênero poderá prestar queixa formal na delegacia.

This means that every citizen that suffers discrimination bacause of his/her sexual orientation or gender identity can make a formal complaint at a police station.

Concerning the history of PLC 122, blogger Felipe Shikama comments [pt]:

Aprovado por unanimidade pela Câmara Federal em setembro de 2006, o PLC que está no Senado desde fevereiro de 2007, com nº122, determina “sanções às práticas discriminatórias em razão da orientação sexual das pessoas”. No entanto, o projeto foi retirado para “reexame”, diante das pressões promovidas por representações dos segmentos mais conservadores.

Unanimously approved by the Congress in September 2006, the PLC that has been in the Senate since February 2007, No. 122, states “penalties for discriminatory practices based on the sexual orientation of people.” However, the project was removed for “review”, given the pressures from the representatives of more conservative segments.

The increasing focus on LGBT issues, as well as the advances in the legislation, has shed light on homophobia cases since the beginning of the year, says Nilton Luz, the coordinator of Rede Nacional de Negras e Negros LGBT, who believes that the attacks on Avenida Paulista in early 2011 were not merely a coincidence. Luz explains [pt]:

O crescimento da pauta LGBT na agenda pública brasileira teve o efeito colateral de organizar a oposição reacionária aos direitos dessa parcela da sociedade. Tornou-se a principal bandeira da bancada evangélica, obrigou um retrocesso na campanha de 2010 e tem tomado o espaço midiático que tiveram as cotas raciais na década passada.

The increasing focus on LGBT in the public agenda in Brazil has had the effect of organizing the reactionary opposition to the rights of this segment of society. It became the flagship of the evangelical bench, it forced a retreat in the 2010 electoral campaign and it has taken the media space that racial issues had in the past decade.
Image from the blog of the project Eu Sou Gay (I Am Gay)

Image from the blog of the project Eu Sou Gay (I am Gay)

On one hand, some religious groups [pt] and others of the far right [pt] have opposed the the advances in the legislation regarding homosexuality in general, and to PLC 122 in particular, claiming Brazil is seeing the start of a “Gay Dictatorship”.

On the other hand, at the same time that the homophobic violence is increasing in the country, opposition to the attacks has been instant. The campaign #EuSouGay (I am gay) [pt] arose in reaction to the case of a girl who was murdered by the family of her girlfriend in São Paulo. Civil society has mobilised and pushed for the approval of PLC 122 so that the LGBT community does not have to live with fear forever.

These and other cases shedding light on the reality of LGBT groups and the right to sexual orientation in Brazil will be further discussed in a series of posts on Global Voices. We will report on several netizens’ perspectives, ranging from LGBT prejudice to acceptance, and how they are represented and manifested online.

This post was proofread by Marta Cooper.

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