On the morning of Wednesday, March 22, 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing regarding violence against black LGBTI citizens in Brazil. Petitioners noted that incidents of violence against LGBTI victims are underreported; however, the LGBT community still makes up a high proportion of the reported incidents of violence. Petitioners described this as “homophobic violence.” They argued that even with the very broad statute in Brazil that addresses racial equality, black citizens are still targeted. Petitioners also expressed concern that studies regarding ethnic discrimination do not include statistics about which victims identify with the LGBTI community. However, they did point out that regarding murder of transgender citizens, statistics show that over fifty-three percent were black. Petitioners further stated that Brazil is responsible for forty percent of all transgender deaths in the world. Petitioners argued that other than a hotline for victims to call, there are no mechanisms in place to combat this violence or help the victims. They also expressed concerns of underreporting, and lack of state statistics about deaths caused by law enforcement.
Next, Petitioners stated that even with the new affirmative actions in place by the State, none of these policies explicitly protect LGBTI people. Finally, they argued that there is no law in Brazil regarding gender identity, which allows these hate crimes to continue with impunity.
The State recognized that reversing the violence against black LGBTI people has been a challenge. However, it explained that it has instituted several social policies and agencies, such as an Administration of Human Rights, that address the Petitioners’ concerns regarding racial equality. The State expressed the need to develop policies regarding institutional racism, and to include the LGBTI community in that process. The State argued that to address these issues, it needs to focus on studies of children, claiming that if younger generations become more accepting of the LGBTI community LGBT discrimination in Brazil will cease to exist.
The Commissioners asked questions at the end of the hearing to help facilitate further discussion at a later date. Commissioner Cavallaro asked the State what progress it has made in the last four or five months, what the new federal policies in place are, and what needs to be done for full recognition of gender identity. Commissioner Arosemena de Troitiño stated that public policy requires an integrated approach in which the State assesses the entire situation, not just the specific problem. Finally, First Vice-President Macauley implored Brazil to ratify and implement the Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (A-69). She also stated that, even though the State mandates its students learn African History, the black community should be involved in creating the curriculum. She also asked about the level of human rights training the State provides to law enforcement. Lastly, she stated that with the most important aspect in public policy is monitoring, and she asked how the State monitors the impact of new policies.
Both the State and the Petitioners expressed that they look forward to working together to address this situation. The State, in particular, expressed that is will be quick in ratifying the Inter-American Convention A-69 to address this violence and discrimination.
Author’s Legal Analysis
If Brazil does not address the bias-motivated violence committed against its people, it will be in violation of United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions 17/19, 27/32, and 32/2. These resolutions, for which Brazil demonstrated strong support, provide core legal obligations for protecting the rights of LGBT people including: protecting individuals from homophobic and transphobic violence; preventing torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality and transgender people; prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and safeguard freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for all LGBT people.