Homophobic slurs now punishable with prison sentences in Brazil, High Court rules

Crowds celebrate during a Brazil Pride march under a giant LGBTQ+ flag.

A near-unanimous ruling in a Brazilian High Court has ruled that homophobic hate speech is on the same level as racist hate speech – and is punishable with a prison sentence.

A 9-1 ruling handed down through the Supreme Federal Court (STF) on Tuesday (22 August) ruled that homophobia is a crime, much like other forms of hate speech.

Lead judge on the case, Justice Edson Fachin, said in his ruling that protecting LGBTQ+ citizens under the law was a “constitutional imperative.”

Article 20 of the Brazillian Penal Code states that practising, inducing, or inciting discrimination “based on race, colour, ethnicity, religion, or national origin” is punishable by one to three years in prison and a substantial fine.

Other hate speech protections already imposed in Brazillian law extend to HIV-positive individuals. Those found guilty of discriminating against HIV-positive people can face one to four years in prison.

Judges had previously ruled in 2019 that homophobic hate speech is a crime equivalent to racism, but earlier decisions pertained to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole rather than attacks on specific individuals.

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The ruling, which was brought by the rights group ABGLT, means that those protections will be extended further.

ABGLT argued that, because Brazil’s legislature separately defines hate speech against a group, which it calls a “crime of racism” and hate speech against an individual, which it calls a “crime of racial injury,” LGBTQ+ citizens were not currently protected.

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The only judge to vote against the request, minister Cristiano Zanin, argued that to recognise homophobia as a “crime of racial injury” was not relevant to previous rulings.

Brazil is considered to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for trans people according to the rights group Transgender Europe.

Statistics show that 1,741 trans people have been murdered in the country between 2008 and 2022, with 228 murders of LGBTQ+ people in Brazil in 2022 alone

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