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Urgent call to protect LGBTI rights as Brazil elects ‘proud homophobe’ as president

Urgent call to protect LGBTI rights as Brazil elects ‘proud homophobe’ as president

Jair Bolsonaro (Photo: Facebook)

Brazil’s LGBTI community was in shock on Sunday (28 October) as the country elected far-right Jair Bolsonaro as president.

With almost all votes counted, Bolsonaro had 55 per cent of the votes against 45 per cent for Fernando Haddad from the left-wing Workers Party.

Defenders of LGBTI and other human rights advocates promised to fight back against populist Bolosonaro, who has been described as ‘the Trump of the tropics’.

Bolsonaro campaigned on a promise to fight corruption and high crime levels. But he also stirred up animosity against LGBTI people and Afro-Brazilians.

He famously once said: ‘Yes, I’m homophobic – and very proud of it’.

Many in Brazil’s LGBTI community say they have experienced an increase in violence and threats during the election campaign. There have been record numbers of murders of LGBTI Brazilians in the last two years.

‘It’s as if the gates of hell have been opened – as if hunting season had been declared’ said Beto de Jesus, founder of São Paulo’s pride parade, told the Guardian. ‘It’s barbarism’, he said.

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said the rights group would work with the judiciary, civil society, and courageous journalists to defend the rights of Brazilians.

‘We will continue doing the rigorous, independent research and advocacy we have carried out in Brazil for the last decades in defense of human rights for all Brazilians, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, political beliefs, or religion’, he said.

Amnesty International warned Bolsonaro’s toxic hate speech must not become government police.

‘The international community will remain vigilant in holding the Brazilian state to its obligations to protect and guarantee human rights’ said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

‘Genuinely terrifying’

During his 30 years as congressman, Bolsonaro has made numerous comments against Brazil’s minorities, including ethnic minorities, LGBTI people, and women.

In 2002, he said that if he saw two men kissing in the street he would ‘whack them’. In 2012, he said he would not be able to love a homosexual son and that he would rather he died in an accident.

Bolsonaro has also said the state should not pay for anti-retroviral drugs for people living with HIV.

Numerous commentators have expressed concern that Bolsonaro could usher in a new era of authoritarianism in the Latin American country.

In a 2013 interview with Stephen Fry, Bolsonaro said ‘Brazilians don’t like homosexuals’. Fry said it ‘was one of the most chilling confrontations I’ve had with a human being’.

Last month, Fry said the prospect of a Bolsonaro presidency was ‘genuinely terrifying’.

A deadly time to be an LGBTI Brazilian

2018 has been one of the deadliest years for Brazil’s LGBTI community.

Numerous instances of homophobic attacks have been directly related to Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign.

In September, Brazilian LGBTI rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia reported that more than 300 LGBTI people have been murdered in Brazil in 2018, up from 220 by the same time last year.

The group also said that 713 LGBTI hate crimes had been committed by September 2018.

In September, Brazilian soccer club Atlético Mineiro apologized after its fans chanted that Bolsonaro will ‘kill the queers’.

However, this year also saw a major milestone for the LGBTI community’s representation in Brazilian politics. In October, Érica Malunguinho became the first trans person to be elected to the State Congress in São Paulo.

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