LGBT Hate Crimes on the Rise in Brazil

Blog Post By Olivia Mejia

Legal Intern

A developing country on the rise in South America, Brazil has been regarded worldwide as a symbol for gay/trans inclusion, as its citizens seem to value and celebrate sexual diversity. Although Brazil has this reputation, it might actually not be the safest, most welcoming place for queer folks. São Paulo is home to the largest LGBT-pride parade in the world, but homophobic/transphobic attacks and hate crimes continue to occur on a daily basis. A study conducted by Grupo Gay da Bahia (The Gay Group of Bahia) indicates that Brazil kills the largest number of LGBT people worldwide, in absolute numbers. The report also found that there is at least one homicide against LGBT folks every 27 hours in Brazil.
These gruesome facts seem to indicate many contradictions in the nation’s identity and values. As the LGBT movement became more popularized and part of public discourse Brazil, anti-LGBT hate crimes began to increase in recent years. Perhaps this is because gays/lesbians and trans folks have become more visible targets.

The wave of violence in Brazil may also be correlated with the rise in conservative and LGBT-phobic speeches delivered by politicians and public figures. A strong religious lobby of Christian evangelicals entering the Brazil’s political arena, mixed with Brazil’s Roman Catholic heritage, makes it difficult to find support and create progress for the LGBT community on the legislative level.

Although there are movements to extend/protect LGBT rights by creating legislation that criminalizes homophobia in Brazil (for instance, equating anti-LGBT hate crimes to racist violence), conservative parties and lobbies have been successful in watering down the legislation to make the consequences for committing certain homophobic actions less severe. However, the Brazilian government must realize that these “conservative” values essentially give more opportunity to commit homophobic/transphobic attacks without fear of repercussion.

Given the rise of violence committed against LGBT folks in recent years, some Brazilians may feel unsafe returning to or fear being persecuted in their home country on account of their sexual and/or gender identity. LGBT Brazilians currently in the U.S. who have a well-founded fear of returning home may seek asylum status in the U.S. and be allowed to stay if they can prove that they have been persecuted because they are gay either by the government of Brazil or by people the government is unable or unwilling to control.

Brazil 2015 Human Rights Report: U.S. Department of State
Brazil Country Summary – Human Rights Watch. January 2015.
De Vita, Vinacius. An LGBT Person is Murdered Every 28 Hours in Brazil. Huffington Post. 07/11/16
Bevins, Vincent. Homophobic attacks increase in seemingly gay-friendly Brazil. Los Angeles Times. 03/22/15.
Jebsen, Kristian. Brazil’s Surge in Violence Against Gays is Just Getting Worse. The Daily Beast. 04/08/12.
Jacobs, Andrew. Brazil Is Confronting an Epidemic of Anti-Gay Violence. The New York Times. 05/07/16. Rodgers, Matthew. Brazil has highest LGBT murder rate in the world. Dot420. 03/11/13.
The Gay Group of Bahia’s Annual Report / 2014: LGBT Persons Killed in Brazil.