|Shooting victim Douglas Igor Marques Luiz|
The victim, Douglas Igor Marques Luiz, was at a beach area with several friends after the Pride parade when three soldiers walked up and ordered them to leave, the Associated Press reported on Nov. 18. But Luiz was not allowed to leave with the others, he said; he was verbally harassed by the soldiers, who shot him in the abdomen.
Luiz was treated at a hospital and released, the AP reported in a follow-up story. The army said initially that none of its personnel had been involved in the shooting, but on Nov. 18 military officials took two army sergeants into custody in connection with the shooting.
Brazil’s reputation with regard to gays is mixed. On one hand, the country is seen as a gay-friendly place, especially Rio, where elaborate costumes are the order of the day at the city’s famed Pride parades. Sao Paolo mounted the largest Pride parade in the world this year, with over 3 million people in attendance.
But there’s a darker side, too. An Amnesty International report on homophobic violence released on Oct. 27 suggests that the country’s LGBTs suffer from anti-gay aggression, including incidents of torture and even murder.
"The fear of homosexuality in the country is increasingly being expressed through horrific crimes nationwide, as reported by multiple sources," the Amnesty International report says. "The Latin-American Center on Sexuality and Human Rights has identified that the states of Parana and Bahia have the two highest numbers of crimes against homosexuals in the country and at least 15 people were killed in each Brazilian state in 2009, simply for being members of the LGBT community.
"According to Senator Fatima Cleide, from the state of Rondonia, one person dies every two days, as a victim of homophobic crimes in Brazil," the report continues. "The Brazilian gay rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB), which is funded by the World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), estimates that between 1980 and 2009 well over 3,100 homosexuals were killed by hate crimes in the country."
Other nations in the region have taken pro-active steps toward establishing social and legal LGBT equality. Earlier this year, marriage equality became the law of the land in Argentina, when President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a bill providing for full parity for gay and lesbian families on July 21.
But in Brazil, Amnesty International noted, the climate is still cooler toward gays, despite a 2004 legal decision that provided some rights and protections for same-sex families. "While hundreds of people die every year based on hate crimes, Brazilian Congress has struggled since 2006 to approve legislation categorizing homophobic violence as crimes," the report said. "Religious and conservative interests have proven to be strong and effective opponents to this human rights law." The human rights group called on Brazil’s newly elected government to rectify the legal situation.
Laws to provide for LGBT Brazilians’ equality would be a starting place for bringing sexual minorities up to full social equality, argued an Oct. 28 article at Change.org. "Even though law itself probably won’t solve the problem completely, social norms can be shaped by how the law reacts to any given situation," the article noted, adding, "If Brazilian officials want to send a message that Brazilian gays are not inferior human beings, that would be a good place to start." A link to an online petition to Brazilian Ambassador Mauro Viera was included at the site.