Participants: Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), State of Brazil, Rede Nacional de Negros e Negras LGBT, Grupo Ativista de Travestis e Transexuais e Amig@s (GATTA) , Identidade
Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation

Petitioners from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and Rede Afro LGBTalong with State officials from Brazil attended a public hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on October 25, 2010. The two parties appeared interested in having a productive conversation about discrimination against transsexual, transgender, and transvestite populations in Brazil, and came to the table with similar understanding of the steps that need to be taken to counter the problem. Four Commissioners presided over the hearing: Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero, Rodrigo Escobar Gil, Felipe González Morales, and Jesús Orozco Henríquez. Two other petitioners representing Identidade and Grupo Ativista de Travestis e Transexuais e Amig@s (GATTA) were denied U.S. visas to attend hearing, according to Helena Rocha of CEJIL.Edmilson Medeiros from Rede Afro LGBT outlined various types of violence and discrimination faced by Brazil’s transsexual, transgender, and transvestitecommunity. He specifically noted the rising number of murders, which petitioners argue the Brazilian state has failed to prevent and investigate. In 2009, there were 72 murders of “trans” community members — a 22 percent increase from the previous year. More disturbing, thus far in 2010 there have been 74 transvestite and transsexual murders. Commissioner Mejía was curious about the cause of this recent increase and questioned whether it is attributable to an actual increase in incidents or a greater reporting frequency. Neither party provided a concrete answer to this question.Petitioners also highlighted violence in the home and on the streets. For instance, fathers sometimes beat their sons for suspected homosexual tendencies, and transgender and transvestite people are frequently pushed into prostitution where they are susceptible to violence from patrons. Moreover, the Fundação Perseu Abramo found that in Brazil almost all people interviewed recognized the existence of prejudice against LGBT people: 93 percent of the population believed there to be prejudice against transvestites, and 91 percent thought there was discrimination against transsexuals. Medeiros urged Brazil to develop jurisprudence to deal with LGBT and “trans” issues and asked the IACHR to handle the theme by drawing on the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racism, jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights, jurisprudence on non-discrimination from various domestic and international courts, and UN declarations and recommendations.

Commissioner Escobar Gil asked what legislative advances Brazil has made with respect to family, health, and social security rights for the “trans” community. Brazil’s representatives focused on the steps the State has taken and plans to continue in education, public health, and social assistance. The State mentioned ongoing dialogue with civil society and their joint efforts to educate the country about homosexuality and the “trans” community, including a national day to combat homophobia. Brazil recognized that educational programs implemented in the nation’s schools would not reach everyone due to limited school access and literacy levels among some portions of the population. The State mentioned that in 2002 Brazilian universities began to teach gender reassignment surgery as part of their health professional training programs. The petitioners countered that, despite this positive step, the state makes it very difficult to change one’s name from one gender to another, making access to some gender-specific healthcare more difficult.

All parties agreed that change and progress are needed to protect the “trans” community from further discrimination and violence. Moreover, the State expressed interest in working with civil society organizations to create effective and efficient change. Perhaps more telling than such comments during the formal hearing was a moment after the hearing: Lena Vânia Carneiro Peres, the National Secretary of the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights and a female representative the State approached Medeiros and pointed out her own triangle pendant, representing her support of LGBT rights, explaining that the issue was dear to her and thanking Medeiros for his work.