Brazil: Invisible behind bars - protecting LGBTI detainees

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Particularly vulnerable in detention, LGBTI people remain invisible behind bars. Monitoring bodies should pay special attention to the risks of torture and ill-treatment facing LGBTI detainees, while LGBTI rights organisations should seek to engage more in the implementation of the National System to Prevent Torture (NSPT). These are the main conclusions of the recent working meeting APT convened with representatives of national and local torture prevention mechanisms, LGBTI and women rights organisations and experts, as well as the public defence office.

Over-criminalised, LGBTI persons are disproportionately subjected to the Brazilian police forces' scrutiny. Taken into the criminal justice system, they face heightened risks of torture and other ill-treatment. To address this issue, APT has set a priority goal of increasing visibility of LGBTI detainees in the country, while fostering measures to enhance protection of their rights. The working meeting was an initial step.

Although Brazil is one of the few countries in the world that has issued specific guidelines on conditions of detention for LGBTI persons – addressing issues as varied as intimate visits, health care or hormones therapy – compliance is far from reality. Moreover, the LGBTI community feels excluded both from the drafting and implementation of such guidelines and points out that the measures proposed are not sufficient to address the complexity of risks that LGBTI people face in detention.

The allocation of separate cells or wings of prisons exclusively for LGBTI people, for instance (the result of persistent advocacy by the LGBT movement in Brazil), does provide for higher protection against the sexual, verbal and physical abuse that LGBTI persons are frequently submitted to when incarcerated with the general population. However, this measure is not sufficient to address the vulnerabilities and risks that LGBTI people face in detention, and the prior consent of persons concerned by this measure is not sought. Indeed, placement in these specific areas contributes to reinforcing the segregation and stigma prevailing against LGBTI people, and often entails a total isolation from other aspects of life in prison (such as educational or work activities) under the reason that “their safety could not be guaranteed.”

LGBTI movements are also wary of the risk that rolling out special LGBTI wings across the country may lead to a discontinuation of their dialogue with the authorities on advancing public policies. As such, all participants agreed that the debate should not end with the adoption of reserved wings, and that more comprehensive policies guaranteeing the rights of LGBTI detainees are still needed.

"Although LGBTI people face a higher risk of torture or other ill-treatment, almost no data exist on LGBTI detainees. While monitoring bodies have an even more crucial role to play in the protection of detainees in specific situations of vulnerability, LGBTI rights organisations must get closer to the implementation process of the National System to Prevent Torture and advocate for stronger protection measures, including by taking advantage of the various torture prevention initiatives currently being developed in the country," concluded APT’s Representative in Brazil, Sylvia Dias.

Marcio Zamboni (University of São Paulo, Social Anthropology Programme) and Antonio Andrade (NGO Movimento do Espírito Lilás, Paraíba).

Gabriela Baptista (NGO Igualdade, Rio Grande do Sul), Alexandre Nabor França (Regional Council of Psychology), and Renata Lira (Local Preventive Mechanism, Rio de Janeiro).

Fernanda Machado Givisiez, from the National Preventive Mechanism of Brazil presents the work they have been developing on monitoring conditions of detention of LGBTI persons in different states of Brazil and their main findings and recommendations.

Millena Passos (Grupo Gay da Bahia) raises attention to the risks and threats faced by LGBTI rights activists in Brazil.

Livia Casseres, Public Defender of the State of Rio de Janeiro, shares her experience on monitoring conditions of detention of LGBTI persons.

Participants to the workshop organised by APT on LGBTI persons in detention, Rio de Janeiro, September 2017