Newly-elected trans councilwomen receive violent threats in Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil

Brazil trans councilwoman Erika Hilton

Three newly-elected trans councilwomen in Brazil have received disturbing threats, suggesting that the country’s recent surge in transphobic violence will not be slowing down.

Between 1 October, 2019, and 30 September, 2020, more than 150 trans people were murdered in Brazil under far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, making it the deadliest country in the world for the trans folk.

The queer community was tentatively hopeful after country’s local elections in November, 2020, which saw 48 LGBT+ city councillors elected. Specifically, 25 trans politicians were elected, an increase of 212 per cent compared to the previous local elections in 2016.

But three trans officials in São Paulo have recently been targeted with violent threats, indicating a dangerous backlash in response to the elections.

Erika Hilton, Carolina Iara and Samara Sosthenes, who are all trans and serve on São Paulo’s city council, were targeted within the same week.

Hilton told PinkNews after her election: “Even if we are taking small steps, we are moving towards the rescue of our humanity, our human dignity, the recognition of our civil and human rights, and placing ourselves as first-class citizens.”

But last week, a masked man made his way into Hilton’s office to verbally abuse her and threaten her with violence.

She told Reuters: “For every step we take to advance, there is a systematic attempt to eliminate us. It’s not by chance that we live in the country that kills most trans people.”

On the same day, shots were fired from a car outside the home of Iara, a Black, trans, intersex social scientist living with HIV.

Three days after the threats agains Iara and Hilton, shots were also fired outside Sosthenes’ home. She told Reuters: “I believe the motivation was that the old politics fear new policies and new bodies.”

São Paulo police are currently working to determine whether the three incidents are linked.

While Hilton has been promised two guards for protection by the city council, Iara and Sosthenes will not be protected on the grounds that they share their positions as councillors with other officials.

Milton Leite, president of São Paulo city council, ignored the thousands of people who have signed petitions calling on the council to protect Iara and Sosthenes, saying: “This is a house of law, not a house of public safety.”