Acts of homophobia are temporarily considered equivalent to acts of racism, and can therefore be punishable by one to three years in prison, or fines.
The Brazilian Supreme Court on Thursday decided by eight votes to three to criminalize homophobia, an important measure for sexual minorities in one of the countries with the highest number of LGBT killings.
The Supreme Federal Court (STF) considered that the legislature was in default for not having adopted until now a law repressing homophobic behavior. He therefore provisionally decreed that homophobia was tantamount to the crime of racism, until the Congress – currently with a conservative majority and strongly influenced by the evangelical churches – drew up a specific law to repress this type of discrimination.
“Injuries that separate parents from children”
“Any prejudice is violence,” STF judge Carmen Luzia said in explanation of vote. “All discrimination is a cause of suffering”, but “some prejudices cause more suffering than others, because it is injuries that strike the person in his home, which separate parents from children, [who separate] the brothers , friends, for the simple act of trying to live something that looks natural, “said the judge.
According to the NGO Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB), which has been collecting national statistics for four decades, in Brazil in 2017 there were 387 murders and 58 suicides due to what the association calls “homotransphobia”, which means to say negative feelings towards homosexuals or transgender people.
The figures given by GGB are 30% higher than those of 2016. They imply death by murder or suicide of an LGBT person every 19 hours in Brazil.
One to three years in prison
Judges who voted for the criminalization of homophobia felt that in the absence of congressional action on this issue, the STF could take up the issue. But the three judges who voted against said that the decision to criminalize homophobia was incumbent on the Congress and not on the STF.
“Only the Parliament can approve [the definition] of the offenses and the sentences, only the Parliament can legislate on the penal”, said one of these judges, Ricardo Lewandowski.
Acts of racism are punishable in Brazil from one to three years in prison or fines. As a result of the STF’s decision, these sentences will now be applicable to acts of homophobia.
The announcement of the STF caused trouble for Congress, which felt dispossessed of its prerogatives. “The Constitution gives the National Congress the capacity to legislate,” the Senate presidency said in a statement.
The Parliament respects the decision of the STF “but can not accept the interpretation according to which it is in default, because it is oriented according to the respect of the democracy and the plurality of the opinions”, added the presidency of the Senate.