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November 22 -24, 2002


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World View:  Brazil

This year, with music blaring from more than 20 sound trucks, hundreds of thousands of people danced and marched through Sao Paulo Sunday, June 2, in what was billed Latin America's biggest gay pride parade. Organizers attributed the huge turnout to the presence of heterosexuals who sympathize with the gay rights movement.

BUT, Brazil is still the World Champion in the murder of homosexuals.  Every 3 days a gay man, transvestite or lesbian is brutally murdered in Brazil.

Brazil's Hate Crime Murders Number 132 in 2001

One hundred thirty-two Brazilian gays, lesbians and transgendered people were murdered in anti-gay hate crimes in 2001, the Grupo Gay da Bahia [GGB] reported April 24.

"When compared with the homophobic crimes documented in 25 other countries, Brazil gets put in first place, followed by Mexico, with a yearly average of 35 homicides of homosexuals, and the United States, with a yearly average of 25," said GGB President Luiz Mott, author of the report and a professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Bahia.

Eighty-eight of the victims were gay men, 41 were transgendered people and three were lesbians.

"Brazil is the world champion in murders of homosexuals, having registered between the years 1980 and 2001 a total of 2,092 such murders -- an average of 104 deaths per year," Mott said.

In 2001, the most murders occurred in São Paulo state (24) followed by Pernambuco (16), Bahia (14) and the Federal District (11).

According to the report: "The crimes against homosexuals occurred above all in capital [cities], being concentrated on Friday and Sunday nights, with gays being murdered most of the time by being stabbed inside their own homes, and transvestites being victims of firearms, in the streets. Seventy-two percent of the victims were Afro-descendents (mulattos or blacks). The youngest victim was 14 years old and the oldest 68. Most of the homicides occurred in the 18-30 years age group and in practically all socioeconomic levels ... predominantly among professionals, sex workers, business owners, teachers [and] hairdressers."

What About Brazil -- For Women?

According to GGB's statistics, only 2% of these attacks are on lesbians, but Love Sees No Borders believes this number is grossly underestimated for two main reasons. First, a vast percentage of homophobia-related crimes go unreported. Even in the United States, most hate crimes are not reported. The city of San Francisco, considered by many as a gay Mecca, has one of the highest percentages of hate crimes in the U.S. Very likely this is because people feel comfortable enough to come forward with their complaints knowing they will not be discriminated against by institutions and law enforcement officials--after all, a large majority of hate crimes in Brazil are committed by police officers--therefore, elevating the number of people unwilling to denounce a crime. Second, in women's cases brutality against lesbians very likely takes the form of violent rape. If a victim is brave enough to come forward, the complaint will be rape, not a hate crime against a lesbian. In addition to this, Brazilian police are notorious for underestimating women's complaints. The city of Sao Paulo had to create a separate police entity known as the Delegacia da Mulher, or Women's Police Department, to deal with crimes against women because it is a well known fact in Brazil that police officers are unable to deal with crimes against women. In many cases, these same police officers who are taking complaints from women commit the same atrocities on their wives and daughters at home. As a matter of fact, until 1991 husbands could kill wives in Brasil in what are so-called "honor killings." Famous politician Paulo Maluf was quoted as telling men that if they had sexual urges to go ahead and "rape, but don't kill." Recently, law "enforcers" are prosecuting kidnappers with more tenacity than rapists, even though, unlike rapes, most of the kidnapping cases in Brazil are not violent. Women as a whole are not respected in Brazil and are constant victims of despicable crimes. These two factors have to be taken into account when estimating hate crimes against lesbians in Brazil, since when it comes to lesbians we experience under-reporting and an overlap between hate crimes and crimes against women.

Brazil is a country of opposites when it comes to gay issues. Several courts have granted gay and lesbians partners benefits such as inheritance and pension rights. This kind of recognition is unheard of in the U.S. Yet gays and lesbians, as well as transsexuals, do not live inside courtrooms. We are people, and as such we live in the towns, cities and villages of a country. In this world outside of courtrooms, life is very different, and Brazilian society is not welcoming to gay people. Gay, lesbian and transsexual Brazilians cannot even count on fair treatment by Brazilian police. For instance, in 1998, Brazilian policemen were suspected of killing a transvestite, and another transvestite was murdered in 1995. (In the Brazilian media, the terms "transsexual" and "transvestite" are interchangeable, with "transvestite" used more commonly.) The perception that effeminate men suffer the brunt of persecution, while lesbians escape the radar of hate is a misconception. A couple of out lesbians were tortured and humiliated by police officers based on no other evidence than a false accusation. None of the officers involved were ever charged or prosecuted in any way.

Besides the police, society is not at all welcoming of gays, lesbians and transgendered people. In Sao Paulo, considered the most cosmopolitan city in Brazil along with Rio de Janeiro, citizens tried to stop the Gay Pride Parade. Brazil has one of the most active and growing movements of skinheads, a white supremacist and homophobic group. They were responsible for the most brutal and public death of a gay man in downtown Sao Paulo where at least 30 skinheads were involved. Only two have been indicted.

Adding insult to injury, in 1999 mail bombs were sent to a Sao Paulo gay organization. After investigating the events, it was found that an employee of Amnesty International, a human rights watchdog, was responsible for the mail bombings. To read about the story published in Portuguese in a major Brazilian newspaper, click here.

As you can see, Brazil is not a safe country for gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transsexuals. These are just a few cases that mirror the hundreds of thousands of unreported cases. The land of soccer, carnaval and caipirinha can also be a land of bloody hatred and murder if you happen to be a member of the LGBT community.

Most of the information used to generate this page came from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign (www.iglrhc.org), and the Grupo Gay da Bahia (www.ggb.org.br).

On February 19th, 2002, Marta Donayre was granted sexual-orientation-based political asylum in the United States, which illustrates that the INS is aware of the extremely dangerous and volatile environment towards gays and lesbians in Brazil, and that they acknowledge that if Marta were to return to Brazil to live openly as a lesbian, her life would be in danger.

"We feel very fortunate that our personal fight is over. However, the fight for rights for couples just like us is NOT over. We will continue to advocate for rights for same-sex binational couples and to raise awareness of others who are not as lucky as we have been."

Read more on the plight of Marta Donayre



Hot Topic:

The Brazilian lesbian movement loses a warrior.
41 year-old, Elizabeth Calvet, died (September 2001) due to a cerebral aneurism.  She was an untiring fighter of the cause: brave, bold and one who was never silent.

According to IGLHRC, Calvet spoke out consistently in her life about the interplay of multiple discriminations. Among black activists, she was a pioneer in discussing the existence of black lesbians. As a poor black woman, Calvet reached out to the lesbian and feminist movements, shattering many of their misconceptions about the types of women in Brazil who made up the lesbian community.

Calvet’s most unique contribution came in working with lesbians with whom no other groups was working: black, poor women living in shantytowns or favelas.  She organized and led support groups, struggled with government authorities to see that these women and their children got legal counsel, jobs, and food and worked to sensitize doctors, teachers, and other care and service providers to the plight of poor women and children of color.

IGLHRC post-humously honor Elizabeth Calvet, a prominent Brazilian activist and lesbian of color, at its 2002 Felipa Award ceremonies. Calvet, raised issues of sexual diversity within the black movement in Brazil and helped the lesbian and feminist movements become more conscious about race and class.  Calvet died in September 2001.


Yinara Zone, vice-president of the GLB (Grupo Lésbico da Bahia), and Andreia Domanane


Grupo Lésbico da Bahia ( GLB)
Secretaria Geral da Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas e Travestis
Coordenadoras : Jane Pantel e Zora Yonara Torres Costa
Rua R. das Vassouras, 04/46 Edifício Bonfim - Centro
Caixa Postal, 430 - 40060.970
Telefax (71) 321-6714
janepantel@e-net.com.br - glb@e-net.com.br





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