A Judge in Brazil Approves ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

By Sabrina Samone

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TMP Brazil iReporter Sammy Sarvaris

Yearly, on November 20th, trans people across the globe gather to read the names of fallen sisters and brothers. We honor their lives by speaking their names, and refusing to let the world forget the transphobic hate that took their lives. The names are from all walks of life, and nearly every country, but trans women of color and particularly those in Brazil leaves our community gasping at the number and degree of violence trans people face in Brazil.

According to Gay Group Bahia¹, over 275 lgbt persons have been murdered in one year in Brazil. The stats shows that over 200 gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people have been murdered between January 1 and September this year. The group’s study, which estimated the number using police records and news reports in the region, found that 43 percent of the times took place in the North East. 35% of victims were trans people, while 59% of those were gay, and 4% were lesbians. Though homosexuality is not a crime in Brazil, it is notorious for having one of the highest murder rates for LGBT people – and transgender people in particular – in the world

Each year, and in particularly on Transgender Day of Remembrance², we listen to the growing names of transgender people being murdered in Brazil. It is this very reason, with the growing murder rate, the latest action of a judge in Brazil has become exceptionally troubling. In a country already beyond an epidemic of homophobia and transphobia, a judge has approved conversion therapy of gay people.

Actions like these give a license for even swifter, uglier forms of hate, and considering this is Brazil, that is beyond alarming.

Waldemar de Carvalho, a federal judge in the capital of Brasília, overruled a 1999 decision by the Federal Council of Psychology that forbade psychologists from offering widely discredited treatments which claims to “cure” gay people.

Coming a week after a bank cancelled an exhibition of gay art after protests from rightwing and evangelical Christian groups, the ruling has raised fears that progressive policies could be overturned.

Brazil has a growing population of evangelical Christians who have protested vociferously at plotlines in television soap operas featuring gay or transgender characters, and increasingly ally themselves with burgeoning rightwing groups.

This decision is a big regression to the progressive conquests that the LBGT community had in recent decades,” David Miranda, a leftist councillor in Rio de Janeiro and one of the country’s few openly gay politicians, told the Guardian. “Like various countries in the world, Brazil is suffering a conservative wave.”

Ivete Sangolo, one of Brazil’s most celebrated singers, wrote:

“The sick ones are those who believe in this grand absurdity,”in an Instagram post commenting on the ruling.

Judge de Carvalho ruled in favor of an action brought by Rozangela Justino, an evangelical Christian and psychologist whose license was revoked in 2016 after she offered “conversion therapy”.

In a 2009 interview with the Folha de S Paulo newspaper, Justino said she saw homosexuality as a “disease”, advised patients to seek religious guidance and said: “I feel directed by God to help people who are homosexual.”

The Federal Council of Psychology said in a statement that the decision “opens the dangerous possibility of the use of sexual reversion therapies” and promised to contest it legally.

Council president Rogério Giannini, a psychologist based in São Paulo, said its 1999 decision prohibiting “sexual conversion” therapy had already faced off other legal actions and even a proposed bill in Congress.

“We have no power over research,” Giannini said in a Guardian interview. “The way it was put by the judge gave the impression that we prohibited research which is not true.”

As hashtags like #curagay (“gay cure”)³ trended in Brazil, Twitter users used memes and GIFs to ridicule the decision.

“They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no,” tweeted one Brazilian using the name Ubiratan.

Blasphemy is using the word of God to justify one’s hate or own personal sins. Those actions have consequences, and unfortunately our trans sisters and brothers who are often the easiest known targets of LGBT hate may face a heavier toll than we could ever imagine if such legislation continues to go unnoticed and rivaled by the world’s LGBT communities.


  1. Groupo Gay Da Bahia, LGBT rights organization in Brazil similar to the HRC in America.
  2. TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance) was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.
  3. Trending hashtag on twitter in response to Brazilian Judges decision

 

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