On June 13, Brazil’s top court ruled that homophobia and transphobia should be framed as crimes under Brazil’s existing racism legislation.
There are no laws in Brazil’s penal code that explicitly address prejudice or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The court says the new ruling addressed a legislative omission that failed to protect Brazil’s LGBTQ+ population.
Those who commit acts of violence against LGBTQ+ peoples could be punished with prison sentences of one to five years. Those are the current penalties for discrimination based on ethnicity, skin color, race, religion, or nationality according to a penal code provision in place since 1989.
The 11-member Supreme Court voted 8-3 for the criminalization in response to a lawsuit moved by the Brazilian Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite, Transgender, and Intersex (ABGLT, in Portuguese) and the Popular Socialist Party (PPS).
In addition to punishing acts of violence, the court’s decision makes it a crime to deny educational and professional opportunities, as well as access to public services and government buildings, based on sexual orientation. The promotion of discriminatory attitudes or events on social networks and other media could also be punished under Brazil’s racism law.
Brazil has one of the highest murder rates of LGBTQ+ people in the world, coming behind Mexico, the United States, and Colombia.
In 2018, 420 LGBTQ+ people were killed — one every 20 hours, according to the Bahia’s Gay Group, one of the oldest LGBTQ+ rights groups in Brazil. Of those, 72 percent were homicides, and 24 percent were suicides.