Brazil's Supreme Court Votes To Make Homophobia And Transphobia Crimes
Six of the court's 11 judges have voted in favour of the measure, and the other five will vote in a further session on 5 June. The legislation already has a majority, but the ruling won't take effect until all judges have voted.
The decision means such crimes will be punished under the country's racism laws until Congress approves specific LGBTQ+ legislation.
Racism was declared a crime in the country in 1989 and those found guilty are punishable with prison sentences of up to five years. During two decade period since, activists have been campaigning for LGBTQ+ groups to be protected by similar legislation, however, they have been met by opposition from religious and conservative groups.
Grupo Gay da Bahia, Brazil's oldest homosexual human rights group, has praised the move, arguing it will help to offer some much needed protection to LGBTQ+ people. The group says 420 LGBTQ+ people were killed in the country last year, with at least 141 killed so far this year.
Brazil has the world's largest Catholic community, however, they are becoming increasingly challenged by youthful liberals seeking to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
In 2013, the country legalised gay marriage in a landmark move. However, last year the country elected President Jair Bolsonaro, who has in the past described himself as a 'proud homophobe'. He has also said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.
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Speaking in April, he said: "If you want to come here and have sex with a woman, go for your life. But we can't let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise. Brazil can't be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism."
Given the fact that Bolsonaro is at the helm, many LGBTQ+ groups feel the ruling has come at the opportune moment.
Bruna Benevides, president of the Niteroi Diversity group, said he hoped the Supreme Court's ruling would protect them.
According to Al Jazeera, he said: "(The ruling) Comes at a very good moment, when we have a head of state who is LGBT-phobic. The Supreme Court assumed the responsibility to protect us."
However Judge Luiz Fox, who cast the sixth and deciding vote, warned the vote far from puts an end to homophobia and transphobia.
According to The Independent, he said: "Parliament doesn't act.
"There is no guarantee the bill will pass, and even if it does, it can be vetoed and homophobia will continue.
"The judiciary must act in defence of minorities against violence by the majority."
Featured Image Credit: PA