Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Video: In Brazil, debate on murders of LGBT and hate crimes law sparks homophobic backlash

Posters, flowers and candles left at a 21 November demonstration against homophobic attacks in Sao Paulo
By Paul Canning

By many counts Brazil is one of, if not the, most dangerous countries in the world to be LGB or T. But a proposed law to tackle this has provoked a massive backlash on social media, including direct incitements to violence

According to Senator Fatima Cleide one person dies every two days, as a victim of a homophobic attack. The Brazilian gay rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB), which is funded by the World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), estimates that between 1980 and 2009 at least 3,100 homosexuals were killed by hate crimes in the country.

Recently two Brazilian soldiers were arrested following the shooting of a 19-year-old gay man on the day of the Gay Pride celebration in Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo's Gay Pride attracts 3.3 million - the biggest in the world - but a group of upper middle-class teenagers went on an attacking spree, beating several men and yelling homophobic epithets after the parade. Four of them were minors, and were sent to a juvenile detention center, but they have already been released, since a judge determined that they "were not a danger to society." Though the victims' lawyers will hopefully pursue criminal charges against the aggressors, the Sao Paulo government has only threatened fines (though they could potentially be quite high).

Alongside the massive displays of Gay Pride, Brazil is a country where hundreds of people are dying every year because on hate crimes.

Vagner de Almeida and Richard Parker, the directors of the first documentary film about the violence, 'Sexuality and Hate Crimes', found that the hate crimes come from different segments of society, and are often motivated by the anti-gay output of the Catholic Church and radical evangelical groups.

The film notes that many of the afflicted are unrecognizable after death due to mutilation.

Past President Lula's government launched 'Brazil Against Homophobia', including television advertisement and billboards, in 2006. Last year he launched a National Plan of Promotion of the Citizenship and Human Rights of LGBT. Brazil recognises same-sex relationships for immigration purposes. Yet the Brazilian Congress has struggled to approve legislation categorizing homophobic violence as hate crimes. A bill is again currently under debate.

Religious and conservative interests have proven to be strong and effective opponents of this hate crimes legal change, claiming it would offend their 'religious rights'. These interests have previously proposed two federal laws, one that makes illegal the act of kissing between persons of the same sex in public, another that creates an aid and assistance program for 'sexual reorientation'.

The hate crimes proposal, amid the publicity surrounding the shooting in Rio, has provoked a backlash from anti-gay forces - including on Twitter, and mainly from young people. MundoMais reports that thousands of Twitterers are supporting homophobic attacks on gay and say: "Homophobia? Yes!" (#homofobiasim, see English translation of tweets, some of which are explicitly pro-violence, pro-'corrective rape' of lesbians) in reaction to the proposed hate crimes law (yes=#PL122Sim, No=#PL122Nao).

Said commentator Diego after viewing MundoMais's video of the #homofobiasim tweets:
I find it strange to be in the 21st century and have the feeling that I'm in the 15th century. There is a setback in the mentality of the population that is breathtaking. And I do not wonder that people with their opinions, but because of encouraging violence. No one is obligated to anything, not to "worship" homosexuals. All this hatred and disrespect for the differences is caused by an empty society, no morals, ethics and basic values. A country that does not take care of education of its people and has no decent and fair laws begat bad seeds, which can contaminate the whole. We achieved much in recent decades and we can not and must never lower our heads. Respect and dignity is a right for everyone.

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