By Hannah Ross, Lina Mantanona, and Brooke Richards
Brazil is one of the most progressive country in Latin America in terms of institutionalized LGBT rights, yet it is the most dangerous country in the world for the LGBT community. The violence against LGBT people in Brazil has recently skyrocketed from its already leading numbers in murders and attacks on people due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This spike has been attributed to the election of now president Jair Bolsonaro, who has made international headlines for his extreme hate speech condemning LGBT citizens. The new leader of Brazil has gained his political position through a widespread grassroots movement, based on a conservative and religious platform. Bolsonaro’s attitudes towards the LGBT rights are exemplified through blatant statements made in reference to the LGBT community: “yes, I’m homophobic – and very proud of it,” and “I would rather have a dead son than a gay one”. These remarks have led to the surge of violence against sexual minority groups, but have only enhanced the discriminatory ideology that has already existed in Brazil for years.
Brazil has a long standing history of oppression against many groups including women, Afro-Brazilians, Indigenous groups, and members of the LGBT community. The discrimination that these groups face comes from both the state and societal level and stem from deeply rooted Christian beliefs. While Brazil was one of the first countries in Latin America to formally separate church and state in 1891, the influence of religion remains a decisive factor in legislation and political actions to maintain alignment with the ideology of the Catholic church. This record of religiously leveraged corruption in the Brazilian government can be most recently seen through Bolsonaro’s appointment of an evangelical pastor who pledges to promote Christian values above all else as Brazil’s new Human Rights Minister.
As a primary function of state governments is to protect the rights of their citizens, it is important to understand that state-sponsored isolation and violence against the LGBT community threatens the security of rights for all citizens of Brazil. State sponsored violence has continued to rise, and in 2016, 4,424 citizens were murdered by police with no repercussions or due process, leaving victims and their families with no viable course for justice. The failure to acknowledge state sponsored acts of violence has created a culture of impunity within Brazil that allows for prejudice and homophobia thrive. Despite recent progress gained for LGBT rights, the homophobic rhetoric following the election of Bolsonaro has spiked violence that has threatened the human right to life, security of person, and to live free from discrimination. Based on Bolsonaro’s incitement of anti-LGBT terror, his political goals of repealing the LGBT rights won, and his desire to increase police and military presence in public spaces, the human rights of LGBT people in Brazil are severely endangered.