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  • People rallied against Brazil’s presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who has used homophobic language in speeches, in the lead up to the election.

    People rallied against Brazil’s presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who has used homophobic language in speeches, in the lead up to the election. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 February 2019

The death toll for the LGBT population in the country has more than tripled in recent years. With Bolsonaro's anti-LGBT agenda, the outlook is grim.

At least 420 people of LGBT community in Brazil died by homicide or suicide in 2018, fueled by homophobia and hate crimes, the Gay Group of Bahia (GGB) said in a report released Friday.

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GGB, one of the oldest functioning associations defending human rights and the right to free sexual orientation and gender identity in the country, released the report "Violent deaths of the LGBT population in Brazil," which gathered data from 2018 in which 420 deaths were recorded due to homicide or suicide of homosexuals and transsexuals.

According to the data, since 2011 there has been a significant increase in the number of LGBT deaths as a result of discrimination. In that year, 130 deaths were recorded compared to 187 in 2008. In 2017 the figure more than tripled to 445 deaths.

Among the segments, gay men are among the main targets reported and correspond to 39 percent of the overall victims within the LGBT community. People who are transgender are the second most reported group, comprising 36 percent of the statistics, followed by lesbian women at 12 percent. Bisexual people were the least reported, making up two percent of the reported deaths.

Most of those attacks are carried out using firearms, according to the report. The most violent regions for the LGBT population are the North and the Center West of the country. The state of Alagoas has the highest figure.

Violence against the community are unlikely to decrease in 2019 with the arrival of the newly elected far-right government. One of the measures taken by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro once he assumed office in January was to exclude the LGBT population from human rights policies in Brazil. Later that same month, the nation’s second openly gay congressman Jean Wylly said he would not serve the new term for which he was re-elected due to death threats and instead intended to live abroad.

Wyllys, a staunch advocate for gay rights who fought religious discrimination and violence against women during his two terms in Congress, said in a newspaper interview that the climate of violence in Brazil, which had one of the world's highest murder rates last year, had worsened since the election of the far-right President Bolsonaro, who has disparaged gays and other minorities.

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"It was not Bolsonaro's election itself. It was the level of violence that has increased since he was elected," Wyllys told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.

Last year, popular gay Rio de Janeiro councilwoman, Marielle Franco, was murdered execution-style. The last straw before stepping down from his role in Congress, Wyllys said, fell on revelations that Bolsonaro's son Flavio had employed, in his office as state representative up until last year, relatives of a fugitive former police officer suspected of involvement in Franco's assassination in March.

"I don't want to sacrifice myself," Wyllys told Folha. "I want to take care of myself and stay alive."

Earlier this week Bolsonaro also announced that his government would review school textbooks, eliminating any references to feminism, homosexuality and violence against women, and even the works of Brazilian liberation theologist and internationally renowned educator Paulo Freire.

Brazil’s supreme court has been expected to rule this week on two cases that could determine whether homophobia and transphobia should be considered criminal offenses.

The cases, brought by Brazilian rights group ABGLT and the Popular Socialist Party, ask the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) to acknowledge the “unconstitutional delay” of Brazil’s Congress in criminalizing violence against LGBT+ people.

The joint legal actions also called on the court to set a deadline for lawmakers to pass legislation that would specifically criminalize discrimination or violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

A draft law criminalizing homophobic actions was first presented to Brazil’s Congress in 2001, but despite having wide popular support, the bill was never approved by the country’s Senate.

The supreme court judges are also set to decide whether attacks against gay and trans people should be considered a form of racism, and therefore automatically punishable in accordance with the Brazilian constitution.


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