Brazil’s Supreme Court has had a majority vote in favour of making homophobia and transphobia a crime in the country.
The vote comes after almost 20 years of activists pushing for the discrimination to be considered a crime, and although the matter has, and continues to, face resistance, six out of 11 judges in the court voted yesterday (May 23) for discrimination against gay and transgender people to be considered equivalent to racism.
The remaining five judges are yet to vote, and will make their opinions known in a session scheduled for June 5. However, the result will not be modified.
According to the BBC, the decision at the Supreme Court means offences will be punished under the country’s racism law until Congress approves a legislation specifically to protect LGBTQ+ people.
Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989, with those who were found to have committed acts of racism facing sentences of up to five years.
Activists have explained the decision will give Brazil’s LGBTQ+ community real protection against hate crimes.
According to rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia, as per the BBC, at least 141 LGBTQ+ people have been killed in Brazil this year alone. Last year saw 420 LGBTQ+ people lose their lives in the country.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Brazil, but it is still a dangerous country for members of the LGBTQ+ community. The Catholic church and the evangelical movement are frequently critical of gay rights and in spite of being a self-described homophobe, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was elected last year with strong support of conservative voters.
The president has said in the past that he would rather have a dead son than a homosexual one.
Supreme Court Vice-President Luiz Fux explained the reasoning behind his vote to make homophobia and transphobia a crime, citing ‘epidemic levels of homophobic violence’.
Homophobic crimes are as alarming as physical violence.
According to The Telegraph, Fux added:
Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant.
Bruna Benevides, president of the Niteroi Diversity group, said the vote ‘comes at a very good moment, when we have a head of state who is LGBT-phobic’.
The Supreme Court assumed the responsibility to protect us.
The vote against homophobia and transphobia is certainly a step in the right direction for the LGBTQ+ community in Brazil.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.