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Cablegate: Brazilian Lgbt Community Faces Challenges to Rights

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PGOV KPAO CVIS CASC BR ELAB
SUBJECT: BRAZILIAN LGBT COMMUNITY FACES CHALLENGES TO RIGHTS

1. (SBU) Summary: Protection of the rights of Gay Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) citizens in Brazil presents a
mixed picture. Brazil's LBGT population has become far more
visible in recent years and some local governments such as Sao
Paulo have established special legal, law enforcement, and health
programs to assist LGBT citizens. Yet at the same time, the LGBT
community has no federal legal protection against hate crimes or
discrimination, and limited political clout to move legislation
forward. Likewise, while access to public services and protection
has increased in some areas, LGBT activists continue to worry that
crimes against the community remain underreported. End Summary.

Higher Profile Not Translating Politically
------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Brazil's LGBT population has gained increasing national
and international prominence since the 2000 Sao Paulo Gay Pride
Parade's attendance crossed the threshold of 100,000 participants.
Despite the higher profile, however, official respect for LGBT
rights in Brazil in recent years presents both areas of progress
(many of them at the state and municipal level) and areas where
more can be done. Among the most important gaps, Brazil lacks
federal legislation protecting citizens against discrimination
based on sexual orientation. Although such a law was proposed over
10 years ago, the bill has languished without a vote and is now
dead. Brazil's Chamber of Deputies did pass a bill in 2009 that
would have recognized civil unions for same-sex couples, but the
legislation stalled in a Senate committee.

3. (SBU) LGBT activists see opposition to measures like civil
unions from Brazil's politically influential evangelical community
(septel) as a significant challenge. Lula Ramirez from the LGBT
activist group Citizenship, Pride, Respect, Solidarity and Love
(CORSA), told Poloff that evangelical churches have raised such
issues with the Brazilian Congress more than their Catholic
counterparts, primarily through the organization of a formal group
of evangelicals in Congress from several different parties.
Meanwhile, Ramirez and other LBGT activists such local lawyer Barry
Wolfe say that their groups suffer from a comparative lack of
political representation, despite the presence of several openly
gay senators and congressmen in Brazil. Consequently, they
currently look to the courts to advance their cause. As an
example, activists reference several court cases which resulted in
same sex partners being awarded health insurance benefits from
private companies.

Sao Paulo State Pushes Anti-Discrimination Protections
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (SBU) Despite the lack of federal legal protection, states such
as Sao Paulo have moved forward with local protections. In 2001,
Sao Paulo state adopted an administrative law barring
discrimination, including employment discrimination, based on
sexual orientation. Although the measure has no power in civil or
criminal court it permits a commission with the Sao Paulo State
Department of Justice to fine companies or people who attempt to
intimidate or discriminate against LBGT persons. For example, in a
case dating back to 2006, the supermarket chain Carrefour was fined
USD 25,000 after two transgendered customers charged that the
employees of Carrefour in Sao Jose de Rio Preto followed them
throughout the store and intimidated them. Activists point to Sao
Paulo's efforts, and efforts by states like Pernambuco and Bahia to
specifically extend administrative protections like equal treatment
in prison visit policies, as slow but noteworthy progress for the
LGBT community at the state government level.

Sao Paulo City Promotes Access to Services for LBGT Community
--------------------------------------------- ----------------

5. (U) Sao Paulo city has been a leader in creating public
institutions to ensure the LGBT community's access to public
services. For example, Sao Paulo city government funds the
Coordinator for Matters of Sexual Diversity (CADS) that oversees,
in partnership with the city's departments of health and culture,
all projects within the city government related to sexual
diversity. According to General Coordinator Franco Reinaudo, CADS
operates two different centers, one of which facilitates access to
legal representation for people who face discrimination. The
second is the Reference Center for Diversity (CRD), which services
not only members of the LGBT community, but also professional sex
workers. This is a service center which operates as a referral
agency helping LGBT citizens to gain access to public housing,
health, and training opportunities. According to CRD Director
Irina Bacci, the Center offers extensive onsite assistance
including: group therapy sessions for participants, courses on job
interview preparation, and part-time work opportunities in Carnival
costume-making and woodworking.

Special Investigative Unit Takes Root, but Statistics Uncertain
--------------------------------------------- ------------------

6. (SBU) In 2000 the Sao Paulo State Civil Police established a
special unit to investigate crimes of intolerance, including those
directed at sexual orientation. In 2006, the unit was elevated to
a permanent investigative department by the Sao Paulo state
legislature. Department Deputy Margarette Barretoher told Poloff
that since 2000 the rate of aggression towards the LGBT community
has not changed, but the public's awareness of the community has
increased. She noted that from 2006-2009 the department has
investigated about 10 cases of aggression attributed to sexual
orientation. While applauding the existence of the special
investigative department, LGBT activists express concern that
crimes are being underreported. According to lawyer and activist
Barry Wolfe, police abuse of transsexuals is also very common. In
addition, Luiz Mott from Gays of Bahia, an NGO which compiles
information on murders related to homophobia, told Poloff they
believe violence against the LGBT community in Sao Paulo is higher
than reported in official statistics. For example, the NGO
recorded 24 deaths in 2008 in Bahia, a state with a population 30%
smaller than the city of Sao Paulo.

Health: Broader Access to Services Needed
-----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) While Brazil's federal government-run public health system
does support the LGBT community in progressive ways, such as
permitting transsexuals to apply for gender reassignment surgery
using public funds, post LGBT contacts say more national focus
should be placed on ensuring LGBT access to broader health
services. At the state level, Sao Paulo uses HIV/AIDS prevention
funds to support a special clinic for the transgender community
within Sao Paulo city's main public hospital. According to
Director Maria Filomena Aoki, the clinic aims to meet the specific
needs of the transgender and transsexual population. For example,
many transgendered males use industrial-grade silicone to enhance
their bodies, which often causes a series of health related issues.
The CRD also offers HIV/AIDS and sexually-transmitted disease
testing along with counseling for patients encouraging adherence to
HIV/AIDS treatment plans.

Comment: A Mixed Picture
------------------------

8. (SBU) Even though Brazilian society has moved forward in
recognizing its LGBT population in the last ten years, improving
health and some civil protections at the local level, activists and
members of the community say discrimination remains common.
Additionally, NGO research suggests that underreporting of crimes
against the LGBT community is a serious concern. A federal law
against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation
would be a major step toward increasing protection of the Brazilian
LGBT community. However, with limited political support to move
such legislation, most progress on equal legal protection and
access to services will, in the near-term, continue to occur at the
local and state level.
White

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