The Rio Olympics has all eyes on Brazil and unlike some Olympic host cities Rio has been subjected to criticism for poor conditions for athletes, but once the athletes are gone, and the criticism ends, there will still be millions of Brazilians living with those problems that were given a moment in the spotlight. Among them are hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ Brazilians who live in a country with a higher rate of LGBTQ violence than any other and politicians who continually embrace the most hateful elements of Brazilian society.
Brazil embraced legal LGBTQ equality decades before any other country and Rio is home to the worlds largest pride festival, but despite the veneer of acceptance the country is the most dangerous in the world for LGBTQ people. In the last 4 years over 1,600 LGBTQ Brazilians have been murdered. That’s more than 1 person murdered every day for 4 years. To put that into perspective that’s more deaths than young African American men shot in the United States by police officers over the same 4 years. Furthermore Brazil has a population of just over 220 million, over 100 million less than the United States, and LGBTQ citizens make up roughly 4% of the Brazilian population using the most liberal estimates, African Americans are 13% of the American population.
Not to minimize the plight of either group, but living as an LGBTQ person in Brazil is incredibly dangerous and despite all the bluster surrounding Rio, nobody seems to be placing a spotlight on the problem. There are many root causes for the problem, but the main culprits seem to be Brazil’s hyper masculine Machismo culture and the ever growing Brazilian evangelical population which has adopted rhetoric even more vitriolic than their American counterparts.
As a percentage of population Evangelicals made up roughly 5% of Brazil, today that number is around 25% and with that increase in population has come an increase in political power. Brazil’s evangelical voting bloc has more than 50 legislatures and in an incredibly disjointed legislative body that gives them a disproportionate amount of power.
The Evangelical legislatures are colloquially called the “B.B.B. caucus” which stands for “Bullets, Bibles, and Beef.” Their beliefs and politics are very similar to the more vitriolic elements of the American right wing, especially the evangelical powered social conservative movement. Despite LGBTQ equality and adoption rights being solidified in Brazilian law, these have recently become targets, and discrimination laws have been pushed utilizing the same “religious rights” arguments used in the United States. To the American observer a lot of that probably seems familiar, what isn’t familiar is the level of hate displayed by various influential members of the Brazilian government.
Brazilian legislature Levy Fidelix claimed the LGBTQ people “aren’t fit to be parents” and that “excretory tracts aren’t for reproduction.” Legislature Marco Feliciano claimed “AIDS was gay cancer” and all of these statements came in the last few years, not decades ago. Furthermore it’s not matched with calling out the violence, even Republican legislatures most opposed to gay rights showed solidarity after the Pulse Night Club shooting. The Republican Party under Donald Trump embraced more inclusive rhetoric in regards to LGBTQ Americans. In Brazil, their politicians use that hate to attain power in a way that is distinctly Brazilian.
It’s also distinctly dangerous and until Brazilian legislatures link their language the hate crime epidemic their country is experiencing, the violence will only continue.