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Brazil’s supreme court votes to criminalise homophobia and transphobia

Six out of eleven judges in Brazil’s supreme court have voted to criminalise homophobia and transphobia, similarly to racism, a bite-back against the rising tide of hostility towards the LGBTQI+ community throughout the country.

The decision has come in a time of need, in the wake of widespread hate-crime toward LGBTQI+ people across the country and the proudly homophobic rhetoric of Brazilian head of state, Jair Bolsonaro.

A majority in Brazil’s supreme court rule to make homophobia and transphobia a crime, in reaction to widespread hate-crime across the country.

Six of eleven judges in the supreme court on Thursday agreed that discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation should be treated under current anti-discrimination laws until the parliament has passed legislation concerning the protection of LGBTQ+ people in the community. The five remaining judges will vote in court in early June, and the results won’t be changed until after they’ve all voted.

This new legislation would make violence against LGBT+ people a criminal act and make it illegal to deny access to education or jobs, to refuse service in stores, or to prohibit LGBT+ people from entering public buildings.

According to Bruna Benevides, president of the Niteroi Diversity group, the decision “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.”  Protection that is much needed for this community in Brazil, as alarming numbers of hate-crime have been widespread across the country, with least 141 LGBTQI+ people killed in Brazil this year.

“Homophobic crimes are as alarming as physical violence,” Supreme Court Vice President Luiz Fux said on his vote, citing “epidemic levels of homophobic violence”.

The ruling will be a bit of a rude awakening for the head of state Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected on the basis of conservatism and family values, and is proudly homophobic. Bolsonaro has openly declared his homophobic views many times in the past, even stating that he’d rather have a dead son than a gay son.

Recently, Bolsonaro has enraged the public by saying that Brazil shouldn’t become a “gay tourism paradise”, stating that “if you want to come here and have sex with a woman, go for your life… but we can’t let this place become a gay tourism paradise. Brazil can’t be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism. We have families.”

Although same-sex marriage is legal in Brazil, it is still one of the most dangerous countries in the world for LGBTQI+ people. This is a fact that many believe won’t change soon, however, the decision marks a significant step for the country. Felipe Carvalho, president of the Niteroi Diversity Group, has stated that “This won’t end LGBT-phobia, but it opens a number of possibilities for us.”