Race and Equality and the National Association of Travestis and Transexuals of Brazil (ANTRA) ask the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to publicly denounce the increase in murders of transgender people in Brazil in 2020

Washington, D.C. and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. May 13, 2020. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and the National Association of Travestis[1] and Transsexuals of Brazil (ANTRA) sent a letter to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) expressing their deep concern over the increase in murders of transgender people in Brazil. According to a bulletin recently published by ANTRA, there were 48% more murders of transgender people in Brazil during the first four months of the year than during the same period in 2019. Many of these murders have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From January to April 2019, 43 transgender persons were murdered in Brazil; while during the same period in 2020, there have been 64. When isolating the months of March and April, to compare specifically with the beginning of the pandemic, there was an increase of 13% in these murders. This demonstrates the extreme violence the Brazilian State and the Brazilian public commits against trans persons, who are even more unprotected in the current context. The Brazilian State has taken no action to address the needs of this population during the health crisis and its resulting socioeconomic impacts.

The situation is intensified by the serious political crisis that the country is also facing at the moment, aggravated by a president who has constantly made threats against Brazilian democracy, even recently participating in demonstrations[2] that called for the closure of the National Congress and the Federal Supreme Court (STF). One of the groups responsible for organizing these demonstrations has publicly proclaimed itself a paramilitary group. According to the group’s leader, the group’s purpose is to “make the STF ministers understand, if necessary, coercively, that there are 11 demigods.”[3]The participation of the president in the demonstration alongside this extreme group is very worrisome.

The coronavirus has aggravated the political crisis in Brazil. President Jair Bolsonaro has shied away from his responsibility as the head of the executive branch and has encouraged noncompliance with the recommendations for social isolations given by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, and the IACHR itself. Meanwhile, the death toll continues to rise, reaching 12,484 deaths in the most recent count at the time of this statement.[4] At the same time, consistent with Brazil’s extreme inequality, data confirms that the most vulnerable populations, Afro-descendants and the impoverished, are being killed at higher rates by the virus.[5]

Race and Equality and ANTRA are greatly concerned about the social disparaties that have been exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic, which becomes clear when we look at the travesti and transsexual population. Given that about 90% of travestis and transsexual women in Brazil use sex work as a primary source of income[6], these women are not able to comply with social isolation guidelines without giving up their livelihood. There have been several reports of groups that exploit them and force travesti prostitutes and transsexual to continue working.[7]

With this in mind, we request that the Honorable Commission make a public statement regarding the situation of transgender people in Brazil. We also call upon the Brazilian State to take the steps necessary to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and dignity of travesti and transsexual persons in Brazil. Most of these people are Black and continue to be the most vulnerable group, subject to the most cases of physical and lethal violence during the pandemic.

[1] Far from being a pejorative term, according to ANTRA (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals of Brazil), “travesti” is an identity in Brazil, claimed by those who, despite having been identified as belonging to the male gender at birth, recognize themselves as belonging to the female gender and have a female gender expression, but do not claim themselves as women. https://antrabrasil.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/dossic3aa-dos-assassinatos-e-da-violc3aancia-contra-pessoas-trans-em-2019.pdf

[2] BBC. Bolsonaro participates once again in an act criticizing the Supreme Court and Congress. May 3, 2020. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-52518123

[3] Diário do Centro Mundo.

Paramilitary group created by Sara Winter is in the sights of the PGR. May 8, 2020. Available at: https://www.diariodocentrodomundo.com.br/essencial/grupo-paramilitar-criado-por-sara-winter-esta-na-mira-da-pgr/

[4] News Google. Coronavirus cases and number of deaths in Brazil on May 13. May 13, 2020. Available at: https://news.google.com/covid19/map?hl=pt-BR&mid=%2Fm%2F015fr&gl=BR&ceid=BR%3Apt-419

[5] O Estado de São Paulo.

In SP, risk of death of blacks by covid-19 is 62% higher compared to whites. May 4, 2020. Avaialble at: https://saude.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,em-sp-risco-de-morte-de-negros-por-covid-19-e-62-maior-em-relacao-aos-brancos,70003291431

[6] Associação Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (ANTRA). Dossier of murders against Brazilian transvestites and violence and transsexuals in 2019. 2020, p. 69. Available at: https://antrabrasil.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/dossic3aa-dos-assassinatos-e-da-violc3aancia-contra-pessoas-trans-em-2019.pdf

[7] RD News. Exploration of cafetinas forces trans to break quarantine and continue on the street. March 22, 2020. https://www.rdnews.com.br/cidades/exploracao-das-cafetinas-obriga-trans-a-descumprir-quarentena-e-continuar-na-rua/125737

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