Brazil’s LGBTQ community is speaking out about “worsening” conditions in the country after a gay man was gang-raped and tortured last week.
The 22-year-old man was attacked by three armed men in Florianópolis, a city in southern Brazil, the Guardian reports.
During the attack, the man, whose identity has been withheld, was raped with sharp objects and forced to carve anti-gay slurs into his legs.
After assaulting him, the attackers left the man in the street, where he was found and taken to a local hospital.
Police told The Guardian that an investigation is underway, but no arrests have yet been made. The victim has since been discharged from hospital and is recovering at home.
Lirous Ávila, president of the Association in Defense of Human Rights, told the Guardian that the “frightening crime” was “very common in Brazil, and violence — not only against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people but also women, black people and immigrants — is worsening.”
While LGBTQ people and allies have been horrified at the attack, Ávila said that some have attempted to justify it by pointing to the victim’s sexuality.
“It’s absurd to justify violence that is brutal and barbaric,” she said.
Brazil has taken steps towards improving equality for LGBTQ people — including banning discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity in 2019 — but activists have noted that homophobia and transphobia are rife and on the rise.
Margareth Hernandes, a lawyer and president of the gender law commission, said that anti-LGBTQ violence in Brazil has “grown a lot recently.”
“Brazil is the world champion of LGBT murders,” Hernandes said. “We are a very conservative country where there is still a lot of prejudice. Hate speech ends up propagating violence.”
LGBTQ rights organization Grupo Gay da Bahia recorded 224 LGBTQ murders in 2020, with an additional 13 suicides related to situations of violence.
Anti-LGBTQ crimes often go unpunished, and activists have pointed to Brazil’s far-right leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, for enabling homophobia and transphobia.
“We have a president who compounded this violence,” Ávila said. “It seems that the population feels it has a right to commit these violent acts against the LGBT population, influenced by Bolsonaro.”
Last year, Bolsonaro — who has been compared to Donald Trump both for his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his far-right brand of populism — allegedly downplayed the need for masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus by using an anti-gay slur, saying, “Masks are for faggots.”
The comments are part of a long-running pattern of anti-LGBTQ statements from the Brazilian president, who was elected in 2018 on a right-wing platform that included opposition to LGBTQ rights.
Last year he accused the World Health organization of encouraging children to masturbate and be gay, in a since-deleted Facebook post in which he said he wouldn’t be following advice from the organization.
Bolsonaro has also made comments to the effect that he’d prefer his son to die in an accident or be a drug addict than be gay, claiming that he does not have a gay child because his children are “well educated.”
He has also expressed support for violence against LGBTQ people, threatening to hit gay men if he saw them kissing, claiming that the presence of gays drives down property values, and suggesting that parents beat sons who act effeminately.
Bolsonaro also opposes allowing same-sex couples to adopt children, but has gone further than most right-wing politicos by accusing LGBTQ people of wanting to recruit children for sex and insisting that gay parents sexually abuse their children.
In a 2013 interview with Stephen Fry, Bolsonaro claimed that “homosexual fundamentalists” were brainwashing children to “satisfy them sexually in the future.”
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