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Brazilian Supreme Court rules homophobia punishable by prison

Justices on Monday issued near unanimous decision

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Pride flags fly over Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro on March 20, 2022. Brazil's Supreme Federal Court has ruled homophobia is now punishable with up to five years in prison. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Brazilian Supreme Federal Court this week ruled homophobia now punishable with up to five years in prison.

The justices on Monday ruled by a 9-1 margin. Their decision equates homophobia to racism in terms of prison time.

The Supreme Federal Court in 2019 criminalized homophobia and transphobia. The Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Travestis, Transsexuals and Intersex People petitioned for additional protections and penalties.

“Such a decision brings legal certainty and reinforces the court’s understanding with regard to the principle of equality and nondiscrimination,” said the National LGBTI+ Alliance, a Brazilian LGBTQ and intersex rights group, in a statement. “It is an important step in the civilizing process and in the fight against hatred in Brazilian society.”

Congresswoman Erika Hilton, who is transgender, in a tweet described the ruling as a “victory against LGBTphobia.”

The Supreme Federal Court issued its ruling less than eight months after President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office.

His predecessor, former President Jair Bolsonaro, faced sharp criticism over his rhetoric against LGBTQ and intersex Brazilians and other groups. 

Bolsonaro, among other things, encouraged fathers to beat their sons if they come out as gay and claimed people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are at increased risk for AIDS. The country’s Federal Police last August urged prosecutors to charge Bolsonaro with incitement over his COVID-19 claim.

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South America

Chilean capital Pride parade participants, activists attacked

Men wearing hoodies disrupted June 29 event in Santiago

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A group of hooded men attacked participants in the Chilean capital's annual Pride parade on June 29, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation)

A group of hooded men on June 29 attacked LGBTQ activists and others who participated in the Chilean capital’s annual Pride parade.

Witnesses said the men punched and kicked activists and parade participants, threatened them with a skateboard, threw stones and paint at floats and damaged parade infrastructure. The men also broke a truck’s headlight.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBTQ rights group known by the acronym Movilh, strongly condemned the acts of violence, calling them deliberate attempts to disrupt a peaceful and safe demonstration.

“Vandalism that seeks to transgress the peaceful trajectory of our demonstrations and that is only useful to the interests of the homo/transphobic sectors,” denounced Movilh.

The attack occurred when the hooded men tried to break through the security fence protecting the participants and the truck that was at the beginning of the parade.

“As we do every year, we fence the truck with our volunteers to prevent anyone from being run over or hurt by the wheels,” said Movilh. “The hooded men approached the fence to break it, hitting our volunteers and people outside of our organization with their feet and fists who, in an act of solidarity, tried to dissuade them.”

The motives behind this attack seem to be related to previous calls on social networks to boycott the event, although the organizers stressed that violent acts are alien to the parade’s inclusive and celebratory purpose.

Movilh spokesperson Javiera Zúñiga told the Washington Blade that “after the attack that we faced during the Pride March, we published in our social networks the few images that were available from that moment.” 

“What we are basically asking is that anyone who has seen something and can recognize any of the aggressors write to our email or (contact us) through our social networks so that we can file complaints and do whatever is necessary to find those responsible.”

Zúñiga stated that “not only was there aggression against people, but there was also damage to private property because they broke one of the truck’s headlights.”

“So for these two reasons we are looking for anyone who may have information to contact us,” she said.

The incident has generated widespread condemnation within the LGBTQ community and outside of it. They say it highlights the need to protect human rights and diversity and promote respect for them.

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Chilean lawmakers reject proposed nondiscrimination law reforms amid tense anti-LGBTQ debate

Statute named after gay man who was killed in 2012

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Transgender Chilean Congresswoman Emilia Schneider, center, speaks to reporters on June 4, 2024, after the country's Chamber of Deputies rejected proposed reforms to the country's Anti-Discrimination Law. (Photo courtesy of Emilia Schneider)

A political earthquake took place in Chile on Tuesday when the Chamber of Deputies rejected proposed reforms to the country’s nondiscrimination law.

The proposed reforms’ objective is “to strengthen the prevention of discrimination and to promote and guarantee in a better way the principle of equality.” Lawmakers in 2012 approved the law, also called the Zamudio Law, named in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a gay 24-year-old man who lost his life after a group of neo-Nazis attacked him in San Borja Park in Santiago, the country’s capital.

Lawmakers by a 69-63 vote margin rejected the proposed reform that President Gabriel Boric’s government introduced. Thirteen deputies abstained.

The Chilean Senate has already approved the proposal. A commission of lawmakers from both chambers of Congress will now consider it.

Most ruling party members supported the bill, while the opposition rejected it as a block.

Congressman Cristóbal Urruticoechea, who is close Republican Party ally, defended his vote against the bill. 

“Of course we must respect the deviation of others, but it does not have to be an obligation to applaud them or to tell our children that there are more than two types of sexes, because that is not discrimination,” he said.

Emilia Schneider, the country’s first transgender congresswoman, said “unfortunately the majority of the House (of Deputies) has rejected the protection of victims of discrimination.” 

“This is not understandable, it is unacceptable and we are here with a group of civil society organizations to call upon the majority of parliamentarians to reconsider so that we can fix this disaster in the mixed commission,” she said. “We have been waiting a long time for a reform to the Anti-Discrimination Law. We have been waiting a long time for an institutional framework that promotes equality and inclusion in our country because today lives continue to be lost due to discrimination and we cannot continue to tolerate that.” 

“Unfortunately, today the Chamber of Deputies is once again turning its back on the citizenry,” added Schneider.    

Rolando Jiménez, director of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, the country’s main queer organization known by the acronym Movilh, in a statement said “today we went back to the past, to the 90s, to the darkest moments for LGBTIQ+ people and discriminated sectors.” 

“Far-right congressmen went to the extreme of describing LGBTIQ+ people as deviants during the debate in the Chamber,” he said. “We are in the presence of the worst legislative scenario for nondiscrimination of which we have ever had record. It is, by all accounts, a civilizational setback.”

María José Cumplido, the executive director of Fundación Iguales, another Chilean advocacy group, told the Washington Blade that “lies were installed” during the debate.

“This is not a bad law,” she said. “It is a law that follows international standards that prevent discrimination and that improves people’s quality of life.”

“We have been talking about security and discrimination for years, it is a security problem that hundreds and thousands of people live with,” added Cumplido. “We want this project to continue advancing so that the State can prevent discrimination and that people can choose their life projects in freedom.” 

‘We will continue the fight’

The proposed reform’s rejection represents a significant setback in the fight for nondiscrimination and equal rights in Chile. 

The proposal sought to establish an anti-discrimination institutional framework, as well as to broaden the possibilities of compensation for victims of discrimination. It also sought to raise the maximum fines for discriminatory acts and to strengthen the State’s anti-discrimination policies.

“We will not lower our flags,” said Jiménez. “We will continue the fight in the Joint Commission.” 

Movilh has urged LGBTQ Chileans and families to protest against the vote during the annual Santiago Pride march that will take place on June 29.

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La Pesada Subversiva battles anti-LGBTQ digital violence in Bolivia

Santa Cruz-based collective is trans, feminist, and sexually diverse

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Members of La Pesada Subversiva in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Photo courtesy of La Pesada Subversiva)

In Bolivia, the collective La Pesada Subversiva faced an onslaught of digital violence they could have never imagined after showcasing their LGBTQ artwork. Thanks to Hivos’ Digital Defenders Partnership, they received critical support and training to protect themselves, and now have tools to fight against online aggression.

La Pesada Subversiva (The Subversive Troublemakers), a trans, feminist, and sexually diverse collective in Bolivia, has emerged as a form of resistance to patriarchy and gender-based violence. Founded in 2018 in Santa Cruz, one of Bolivia’s most conservative regions, the collective uses various art forms — audiovisual, writing, street happenings, and social media content — to express their views in demonstrations, protests, and the virtual realm.

Cristian Egüez (he/him), one of the founders, explains, “In this region, far-right and ultra-religious narratives are prevalent, pushed by very conservative authorities. In such a tough context, collectives are needed with the courage to confront them and maintain a critical approach to the violence that occurs.” 

Pride Month and ensuing violence

The Altillo Benni Museum, the largest in the city, commemorated Pride Month for the first time on June 1, 2022. They opened an LGBTQ art exhibition called “Revolución Orgullo” or “Pride Revolution” led by La Pesada Subversiva. The collective’s groundbreaking LGBTQ art exhibition faced vehement opposition.

“We adorned the museum facade with trans and LGBTIQ+ flags,” Egüez recounts, “but it lasted less than a day because a group of neighbors came to protest violently and aggressively.” 

Despite this, the exhibition attracted over 400 visitors, demonstrating growing public support for their cause. 

Confronting online harassment

To the collective’s surprise, the museum’s director defended the exhibition, stating that no artwork would be removed, and the exhibition would remain until the end of the month. But then an unimaginable wave of digital violence hit them. Egüez recalls the aftermath: “The event left us emotionally devastated. Throughout that year, every day, we had to endure threats and harassment online.” 

Alejandra Menacho (she/her), another founder of La Pesada Subversiva, shares her experience, saying, “They threatened to rape me, to teach me how to be a woman. It overwhelmed us; it started to really hurt because we felt … everything we said or did was being surveilled.” The collective faced constant harassment on social media, with anti-rights groups monitoring their activities and scaring them with false threats.

Seeking protection from the Digital Defenders Partnership

As the onslaught escalated, the collective sought refuge and support. They applied for a grant from the DDP to get digital protection and security. With DDP’s assistance, they underwent comprehensive training in digital security measures, enabling them to protect their online presence effectively. The members learned to protect themselves and their accounts, not to publish certain things, and to be cautious about disclosing their whereabouts. DDP’s training gave them a comprehensive understanding of digital security tools and provided clear guidelines for dealing with future incidents and how to report them. 

In addition to these digital security skills, they learned physical self-defense techniques, blending martial arts with a feminist approach. 

“This has strengthened us immensely. Now we understand digital security holistically and are always safeguarding our networks,” Menacho emphasizes. 

Members of La Pesada Subversiva in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Photo courtesy of La Pesada Subversiva)

The ongoing struggle of online resilience

Despite the challenges, La Pesada Subversiva remains steadfast in their mission. 

“Digital security must be integrated across the board; it’s not something you attend a workshop for and forget. It must be practiced continually,” Egüez asserts. 

For Menacho, even though she has experienced a lot of frustration and anger, learning to combine these digital tools with psychology and art has helped her express themselves and achieve emotional balance. 

“Because we are rebellious, we want to do these things. Also, because we don’t want these injustices to continue in Santa Cruz. That’s why we keep coming back and reinventing ourselves,” Menacho said. 

La Pesada Subversiva’s journey exemplifies the resilience and determination of marginalized communities in the face of adversity. Through collective empowerment and solidarity, they navigate the complexities of digital violence, emerging stronger and more united in their pursuit of equality and justice. 

The Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP), managed by Hivos, is an emergency grant mechanism for digital activists under threat launched by the Freedom Online Coalition in 2012. It provides a holistic response to digital threats and creates resilient and sustainable networks of support to human rights defenders.

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