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Gay Brazilian Gang-Raped; Activists Say President Encourages Violence

Sao Paulo with rainbow lights

President Jair Bolsonaro has exacerbated the anti-LGBTQ+ climate in Brazil, activists say.

A gay man in Florianopolis, Brazil, was gang-raped last week, one of the latest examples of horrific violence against LGBTQ+ people in the country -- violence that activists say is spurred on by the nation's homophobic president.

The man, whose name has not been released, was attacked "by three armed men who used sharp objects during the assault and forced him to carve homophobic slurs into his legs," The Guardian reports. The perpetrators left him in the street, but someone eventually found him, and he was taken to a hospital. He's now home, and police are investigating but have yet to make an arrest.

"This is a frightening crime, but it's very common in Brazil, and violence -- not only against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people but also women, Black people, and immigrants -- is worsening," Lirous Avila, president of the Association in Defence of Human Rights, told the publication.

Many Brazilians have expressed shock at the crime, but some have excused it because the victim was gay, Avila said. "It's absurd to justify violence that is brutal and barbaric," she said.

"Violence against LGBT people in Brazil has grown a lot recently," lawyer and activist Margareth Hernandes told The Guardian. "Brazil is the world champion of LGBT murders. We are a very conservative country where there is still a lot of prejudice. Hate speech ends up propagating violence."

Some of that hate speech comes from President Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected in 2018 and was previously a member of Brazil's Congress. He has infamously said he'd rather have a dead son than a gay one, has boasted of being a "proud homophobe," and has made numerous racist and misogynistic statements as well. Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, he has said that wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the virus is "for fairies" (before he got COVID himself) and that Brazil should stop being "a nation of fags" in dealing with the disease.

There were 224 LGBTQ+ people murdered in Brazil in 2020, according to Grupo Gay da Bahia, a civil rights organization. During the first six months of last year, the national Human Rights Ombudsman's Office received 1,134 complaints of anti-LGBTQ+ violence, discrimination, and other forms of abuse.

"We have a president who compounded this violence," Avila said. "It seems that the population feels it has a right to commit these violent acts against the LGBT population, influenced by Bolsonaro."

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