The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race & Equality), Instituto Transformar [Transform Institute] of Brazil, TRANS Siempre Amigas [TRANS Always Friends] (TRANSSA) of the Dominican Republic, Corporación Caribe Afirmativo [Affirmative Caribbean Corporation] of Colombia, Fundación Arcoiris de Tumaco [Tumaco Rainbow Foundation] of Colombia, [and] Red Peruana de Jóvenes Afrodescendientes Ashantí [Ashanti Peruvian Network of Afro-Descendant Youth] of Peru express extreme concern regarding the grave state of vulnerability of LGBTI persons’ rights in Brazil. In light of the more than 160 recorded homicides in 2018 of LGBTI persons, the occurrence of 10 homicides due to prejudice during the first days of 2019, the majority of them Afro-descendant trans persons, is extremely concerning. Additionally worrisome is Provisional Measure 870/19 that excludes the LGBT population as a subject for the promotion of human rights. Likewise, the recent resignation of Congressman Jean Wyllis, the sole Afro-gay legislator in the country, who today announced he would step down from his post due to multiple threats, defamation, and acts of harassment orchestrated against him through social media.
State of LGBTI persons’ rights
According to figures reported by the Asociación Nacional de Travestis y Transexuales [National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals] (ANTRA) of Brazil, every 48 hours a trans person is assassinated in that country. Over the last two years, approximately 332 homicides of trans persons have been recorded – acts prompted especially by hatred and imaginary negatives that deepen the ignorance regarding LGBTI persons’ rights and begin to normalize and/or legitimize the violence perpetrated against this population.
In just 2017 alone, a total of 179 trans persons violently lost their lives in assassinations related to their sexuality, 80% of whom were black or mulatto and 70% of whom were sex workers. “Eighty-five percent of the assassinations showed a refinement of cruelty such as dismemberment, hanging, and other brutal forms of violence,” noted the organization.
Deterioration in the area of rights
The recent election of President Jair Bolsonaro represents a real danger to LGBTI persons, Afro-descendants, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, and quilombola groups [settlements established by escaped slaves], among other political minorities. A real war was declared against these groups – or at least against the minorities – noted Alessandra Ramos, a trans female defender of LGBTI persons’ rights and a member of Congressman Jean Wyllis’ staff. She went on to say that the cases of violence against LGBT persons by Bolsanaro’s followers have multiplied in the country. According to a figure provided by the activist, more than 80 cases of assaults and assassinations of LGBTI persons were recorded during the current President’s campaign; she further noted that the trans population is one of experiencing the greatest state of vulnerability given that it embodies the figure and maximum expression of hatred due to its visibility and the degree of social exclusion to which it is subject.
Although the indices of violence against political minorities, particularly against LGBT persons, indicate an alarming increase during Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign promoted by the production of more than 700 million items of fake news disseminated though the principal social media, with regard to the enforceability and recognition of LGBTI persons’ rights, according to multiple denunciations made by human rights organizations in the country, the polarization [brought] by Jair Bolsonaro could already be seen before, even before the start of the campaign. In strong speeches filled with hate, he espoused a narrative regarding corruption, the election of the Workers’ Party (PT) government, the promise of a law that would grant the right to police officers to shoot without legal repercussions, a defense of the traditional family and/or a fight against the ideology of gender, and another promise to free people to bear arms, noted Ramos during her remarks. She further added that all of this represents a concrete threat to the lives of some political minorities and in and of itself is a risk to Brazilian democracy and the progress that has been made in the field of human rights.
It is concerning that within this framework of violence, Provisional Measure No. 870/19, adopted by President Bolsonaro on January 1, 2019, removed the LGBTI population from the list of policies and guidelines whose aim it is to promote human rights. In addition to that, the creation of the new Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights, led by Pastor Damares Alves.
Persecution and harassment
“The discourse of hate cannot be downplayed! He is possibly an assassin and has produced victims!” exclaimed Congressman Jean Wyllis from [the] PSOL [party] after announcing his resignation from office due to diverse acts of harassment, persecution, defamation, and death threats made against him recently.
The openly gay Congressman – who during his time in office had fought for the recognition of LGBTI persons’ rights – noted in various interviews with national news media that his resignation was not exclusively due to the election of Bolsonaro to the presidency but rather, the increasing level of violence since the latter’s election. As an example, the Congressman mentioned the case of the transvestite whose heart was ripped out of her some days earlier and on whose person was left a sacred image. All of these barbaric acts represent a threat against life. “I need to remain alive for the future of the cause!” exclaimed the former Congressman who has protective measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
The aforementiond diverse human rights organizations, out of a strong state of concern and rejection issue a warning call to the Brazilian State to immediately address the grave situation produced by the violation of the fundamental rights of political minorities, especially historically marginalized groups such as Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, and LGBTI persons. We urge the State to be on alert for the multiple and systematic acts of barbarism committed against LGBTI persons promoted by hatred and imagined negatives that ignore people’s rights and incite and legitimize the violence committed against this population.
We remind the country that regression in the recognition of minorities’ rights can have repercussions at the regional level. It additionally represents a direct break with a series of international commitments adopted by Brazil by being a signatory of diverse international human rights treaties and agreements of that nature.
We urge the international community [and] human rights organizations throughout the world to take a stance in the face of the serious human rights problem that exists today in the Latin American country and requires immediate monitoring.