Brazil, april 06, 2021 – In a hearing exclusively dedicated to denouncing the absence of political rights in Brazil, black councilors (cis and trans) and civil society organizations presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The presentation consisted of the current scene of violations of civil and political rights that afflict the security of several parliamentarians in the country. The hearing took place on March 23, in the context of the 179th calendar of virtual hearings of the IACHR, it was filed by the organizations: The National Association of Travestis and Transexuals of Brazil (ANTRA); Criola; Terra de Direitos; Marielle Franco Institute; Justiça Global, Rede Nacional de Negras e Negros LGBT, and The Institute of Race and Equality.
The following participated in the hearing: Erika Hilton (PSOL/SP); Ana Lúcia Martins (PT/SC) and Carolina Iara (PSOL/SP); representatives of civil society organizations included: Anielle Franco, Executive Director of the Marielle Franco Institute; and Bruna Benevides, Secretary of Political Articulation at ANTRA. Despite the discriminatory historical context that structures the Brazilian political scene, progress in relation to identity, anti-racist and anti-LGBTIphobic issues promoted the growth of parliamentary representation in the country’s legislative houses, provoking the existing system of hierarchical powers. However, the reactions of conservatives in political and social sectors, based on a culture of hatred, further foment the phenomenon of political and electoral violence in the country.
Given this framework of systemic persecution, Anielle Franco opened the debate denouncing how political violence is used as a tool to deprive black and trans women from exercising their political rights, which as a result prevents discussions on gender, race, and sexuality inequalities from taking place in political and institutional spaces. Moreover, Anielle exposed data on political violence during the 2020 elections, one of the most violent elections in recent years, which proves the escalation of political tension against black and trans parliamentarians in the country.
According to a survey by the Marielle Franco Institute , 98.5% of black candidates reported having suffered at least one type of political violence. The main violence was virtual, representing 80% of the total attacks suffered. In addition, only 32% of the candidates denounced the experiences they suffered, and among the reasons for not making the complaint public is the fact that they do not feel safe or are afraid to report the violence. In addition to not having support from the political party nor the police, among those who condemned the attacks, 70% said that it did not bring more security,
“There is an urgent need to promote mechanisms to tackle all forms of violence against black, transgender and travestis women, and to reorient existing policies in Brazil that today are still insufficient to guarantee their protection and their political rights,” Anielle concluded.
Parliamentary member, Ana Lúcia Martins, reported that sought protection through legal means, in addition to denouncing the threats on social network platforms, she did not receive any assistance or security from the state nor from her party. She had to bear the costs for her defense. Faced with negligence from the institutions, Ana Lúcia reported that almost nothing happened regarding the investigation of death threats and racist violations suffered. She continues to be a victim of political violence on social networks with messages that incite hatred and intolerance.
Ana Lúcia spoke before the IACHR, “We know that the State’s omission has an origin, the same that ignores the daily death of the black population of this country, whether by urban violence, lack of public policies to eliminate inequalities, racism that structure these inequalities, or by the hands of the State itself (…) Anielle Franco’s question has not yet been answered: Who guarantees the safety of black women elected?”
Co-councilwoman Carolina Iara, who suffered an attack in her home in January of this year, was direct in her questioning: “What is the connection between these threats towards trans parliamentarians and to the 175 trans women and travestis murdered in Brazil in 2020? What is the connection between Brazil’s high number of deaths of human rights defenders and the threats we are suffering? Who’s going to restore the trauma I have now? What kind of country is this where in addition to being silent, the president, in numerous statements, encourages LGBTIphobia?”
Alluding to the memory of Marielle Franco, Carolina pointed out that she will not be a martyr of this systemic violence that finds black and trans bodies in a necropolitical framework, further trivializing death in the country. Thus, she reiterated that the Brazilian State has an obligation to ensure that all black and trans leaders live safely to take part in politics. Additionally, the responsibility of their security cannot be exclusively left to civil society or the party.
In her speech, Councilwoman Erika Hilton denounced the persecution of human rights defenders and the women elected as an attempt at silence. As councilwoman she recalled a threatening experience of an attempted break-in to her office, as well as the university where she studied the walls were vandalized, “with spray-painted expressions: woman, black, elected, dead. I started my mandate having to prosecute more than 50 people for racist and transphobic attacks. How can I carry out political functions without being guaranteed physical integrity?” she questioned.
With the task of reporting the recommendations to the IACHR, Bruna Benevides further exposed the situation of political violence, especially the negligence of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, which made no statement, action or mobilization around political violence against cis and trans black women. As an example, Bruna cited the bill  that aims to protect victims of political violence, but through the transphobic movement of parliamentarians aligned with the fallacious narrative of “gender ideology,” it prevented the extension of protection to trans and travestis parliamentarians.
Bruna reported, “We have also observed several attempts to institutionalize transphobia by assigning biological criteria for access to and guarantee of fundamental rights, denying the right to the recognition of self-declaration and gender identity of trans people in various projects at the federal, state and municipal level. This disregard is corroborated by the negligence and omission of the State in recognizing these political acts of violence, especially against those who do not make up the government base and who are the most affected by political violence.”
Brazilian State representatives sought to escape the complaints with insufficient responses to the demands requested during the hearing, reaffirming a negationist position in relation to racial, transphobic, and political violence that harm political rights and the lives of parliamentarians. Through evasive arguments, representatives avoided and minimized the phenomenon of political violence in the country, attributing the facts to a world context.
In reference to the complaints, the IACHR Commissioners requested explanations from the State. Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur on the Rights of People of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, argued how the Brazilian State monitors cases of violence in the country, moreover she criticized the implementation in law of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, which was already approved by the Federal Senate.
In addition, Joel Hernández, Rapporteur for Brazil, concluded the hearing by emphasizing the importance of advancing women’s political rights and highlighting the State’s rejection in hearing allegations concerning political violence. In addition, Hernández stressed the necessity in observing the ways that virtual harassment operates in order to understand the exercise of political rights in Brazil.
In accordance with complaints cited during the hearing and aimed at guaranteeing the rights and protection of women who are part of the political body of the country, the following recommendations were delivered to the IACHR:
- Instigate the Brazilian State to be in development with the legislative chambers, as well as in dialogue with the city council members and organs of the justice system. Create mechanisms for referrals and prompt treatment of allegations of political violence against black women- cis and trans/travestis, ensuring identification and accountability of perpetrators of violence and providing psychological support to victims, their advisors and family members;
- Urge the Brazilian State to promote coordinated and integrated actions with specialized cyber-crime investigation police departments to hold perpetrators accountable and inhibit the use of online tools and platforms for attacks of political violence, in particular when driven by mass and deliberately sponsored professional structures;
- Prompt the Brazilian State to guarantee the training of judiciary members, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, the Law Office, and the civil and federal police to increase their awareness of political violence against black women, trans and travestis, racial and gender discrimination, hate speech, and create anti-racist legislation, victims’ rights, redress measures, among other topics;
- Promote public hearings, debates and inter-sectoral discussions between public bodies and society on the impacts of political violence motivated by transphobia and issues related to the trans population;
- Urge the Brazilian State to advance in its adoption of specific legislation on political violence against women with actions that include preventing, restraining and punishing this type of violence, with a specific look at black women, travestis and transexual peoples;
- Carry out political tasks by listening to social movements and local civil society organizations to learn more about the current context of violations of the rights of black women, transexuals and travestis who are candidates and elected human rights defenders, with worsening situations of conflict. As well as present the perspectives of international standards that can contribute to the improvement of national protection policies;
- Place pressure on the Brazilian State to expand the structure and budget of the program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders under the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, and the inclusion of candidates and parliamentarians in this program, in order to ensure the protection of human rights defenders and their free exercise of political rights;
Missed the public hearing? Watch the full video here: youtu.be/Uu-U3OIoh2I