Brazil: Strengthening protections for LGBTI people in detention

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

While 2020 has seen positive developments in strengthening standards and guidelines for the treatment of LGBTI people in Brazil’s prison system and for those who come in contact with the law, more needs to be done to implement these standards in practice.

The National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) of Brazil has made protecting LGBTI people from torture and ill-treatment in places of detention one of its key priorities.

The NPM’s work includes building the capacity of its own monitoring teams and raising awareness of the issues facing LGBTI people in detention among stakeholders across the criminal justice system and civil society.

As part of its efforts this year, the NPM hosted a series of four webinars, bringing together more than 70  LGBTI activists, public defenders, legislators, members of the national and local preventive mechanisms, and representatives of civil society organisations working on issues related to prisons and institutional violence.

The webinar series was an opportunity to bring forward voices from the LGBTI community in the fight against torture, provide a safe space to share experiences and to exchange knowledge and ideas to better defend the rights of LGBTI persons in detention.

“To be effective, monitors need to fully comprehend the needs of LGBTI persons and how to secure their rights in practice.”

Sylvia Dias, APT Senior Legal Adviser and Representative in Brazil

The APT, which has been a strong supporter of Brazil’s NPM over many years, was invited to lead the discussions for the third webinar of the series, held in December, which examined the key risks facing LGBTI people detained in Brazil’s prison system.

Sylvia Dias, APT Senior Legal Adviser and Representative in Brazil, drew attention to recommendations issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Subcommittee on Torture Prevention regarding conditions of detention of LGBTI detainees in the country after their respective visits in 2015.

She also provided practical guidance for monitoring teams to prevent violence and discrimination against LGBTI detainees, including in relation to body searches, the right to visits and access to health care.

“It is vital that oversight bodies develop a specialised and gender-sensitive approach to monitoring places of detention and upholding the rights of LGBTI detainees,” Ms Dias said.

“For example, hormone therapy should be available to those trans detainees who require it. In addition, prison administrations should review their rules regarding the right to receive visits so that LGBTI people, who are often estranged from family, can receive visits from close friends, partners or NGOs that provide support for members of the LGBTI community.”

Rosario Gauna, Director of Oversight Visits with Argentina’s NPM – the Comité Nacional para la Prevención de la Tortura – described the situation of LGBTI people in Argentina and provided an overview of data collected regarding trans, non-binary and diverse gender persons in prisons and penitentiaries in the country.

She also drew attention to police violence against this group, explaining how LGBTI people are disproportionally affected by ‘stop and frisk’ police searches on the streets.

More information is available in Towards the Effective Protection of LGBTI Persons Deprived of Liberty: A Monitoring Guide (published by the APT in 2018; English, French, Portuguese and Spanish).

Staff members