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Brazil's Supreme Court Rules to Make Homophobia & Transphobia Illegal


Why Global Citizens Should Care
People around the world are targets of violence due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Governments must work to ensure LGBTQ communities are protected. You can join us and take action on this issue here

Brazil just took a step toward protecting its LGBTQ community. 

Six Supreme Federal Tribunal judges voted on May 23 in favor of a measure to treat homophobia and transphobia as crimes. The remaining six judges voted on Thursday and ruled that both forms of discrimination should be treated like racism (which the country criminalized in 1989) until the country’s Congress approves legislation that specifically addresses LGBTQ discrimination. 

The ruling is a move to address the lack of legal protection for the LGBTQ community, and LGBTQ rights advocates are hopeful that the ruling will prevent violence. 

“Homophobia and transphobia have very real consequences for LGBTIQ people,” Maria Sjödin, deputy executive director of the international LGBTQ human rights organization Outright, told Global Citizen via email. 

The ruling comes in the wake of rising threats against Brazil’s LGBTQ community. Same-sex marriage is legal in Brazil, but LGBTQ people still face discrimination from groups such as the Catholic Church and the country's large evangelical Christian movement. President Jair Bolsonaro also has a long history of making offensive comments about LGBTQ people and has openly admitted that he’s homophobic. 

At least 420 LGBTQ people were killed across Brazil in 2018, a 30% increase from 2016, according to the rights group, the Grupo Gay da Bahia. More than 140 LGBTQ have been killed so far in 2019.

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“Hopefully this will curtail the high levels of violence that LGBTIQ people — especially trans people — face in Brazil,” Sjödin said.

Over the last decade, the Brazillian government tried to create policies that could protect LGBTQ people, but they failed due to a lack of investment from the government in implementing the change, Amnesty International Brazil told the Guardian.

“The Brazilian Supreme Court decision is important because it recognizes that attacking people based on who they are — for racist or homophobic or transphobic reasons — is equally wrong,” Sjödin said.

*This post was updated on June 14 to reflect the Supreme Court's final vote on the measure.