Homophobic slurs now punishable with jail time in Brazil, High Court rules

The Supreme Federal Court (STF) handed down the 9-1 ruling on Tuesday, August 22, declaring homophobic hate speech as a crime.

A Brazil flag (green and yellow with a blue sphere in the middle) on a pole. Brazil is now punishing homophobic slurs with jail time.
Image: Pexels

Following a near-unanimous ruling from a High Court in Brazil, the use of homophobic slurs is now punishable with a prison sentence. This decision puts homophobic hate speech on the same level as racist hate speech in the country

The Supreme Federal Court (STF) handed down the 9-1 ruling on Tuesday, August 22, declaring homophobia as a crime in the South American nation. 

Speaking on the decision, lead judge Justice Edson Fachin stated that the protection of Brazil’s LGBTQ+ citizens under the law was a “constitutional imperative.”

Justice Fachin cited Article 20 of the Brazilian Penal Code in his decision, which states that practising, inducing or enticing discrimination “based on race, colour, ethnicity, religion, or national origin” is punishable by potential jail time. 

Similar protections were previously put into place by the High Court for the legal protection of people living with HIV. Under the statute, those found guilty of discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS can face up to four years in prison. 

In 2019, the STF similarly ruled that homophobic hate speech and slurs were criminally equivalent to racism under the law in Brazil, however, the earlier ruling only applied to attacks on the LGBTQ+ community at large, not to cases involving individuals. 

Tuesday’s ruling, spearheaded by ABGLT, a Brazilian civil rights group, extends the law surrounding homophobic hate speech. 

Minister Cristiano Zanin was the sole judge to vote against the ruling. He argued that protecting individual cases of homophobic hate speech was not relevant to previous rulings, such as the 2019 case that installed protection against community-wide homophobic attacks. 

Despite the pro-LGBTQ+ legislature coming out of Brazil this week, the country remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for trans individuals, says Transgender Europe. 

According to statistics provided by the organisation, 1,741 trans people were murdered in Brazil between 2008 and 2022. Further, in 2022 alone, Transgender Europe reports that 228 members of the LGBTQ+ community were murdered throughout Brazil. 

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