Warning, this post is based on a translated version of the study cited and does not include the entire study. This means that certain logical leaps are missing from the text AND translation referring to trans women is wrongly subsumed under the term “transvestite.” If you speak Portuguese, have a clearer understanding of transgender identity than the translator of the 2008 report or are more able to identify gender distinctions in the Brazilian context that make for a better translation into English, and are willing to translate the 2004 report (the 2008 report is not available online yet) please let me know.
On Language and Gender
If you want to skip the language 101, go directly to “The Case of Brazil” section of the post
When the murders in Juarez reached epidemic levels, the term “femicide” came into common usage. The word, femicide, was meant to draw attention to the specific targeting of women for murder that
- singled women out on the basis of their gender
- may or may not include specific sexualized rituals in the killing or sexual assaults (but more often than not did include these)
- represented a large number of women, killed in the same or similar ways (ie not a single homicide or several unrelated homicides)
- and was carried out by multiple people, covered up by multiple judicial branches, etc. (ie not a serial killer who would get no such pass)
By giving it a specific label and tying it to specific characteristics, feminist activists created a way for people to both speak about and comprehend the intentional targeting of women for murder not only in Juarez but around the world. It also helped draw attention to a specific kind of violent sexism that had not previously been demarcated and organized around globally, tho certainly locally.
Brazilian GLBTQ activists have now coined a new term “homocaust” to draw attention to a similar systematic targeting of the queer community that goes beyond individual hate crimes or occasional murders of GLBTQ people (neither of which is ok either). Their hope is to draw attention to the epidemic in Brazil, supposedly a queer friendly global hot spot, and to give others the language to identify similar mass murders and multi-layered official inaction/cover up in other parts of the world.
From what I can tell from the translated report, “homocaust” is best defined as murder:
- that specifically targets GLBTQ people (especially gay men or trans women)
- uses excessive violence of an anti-gay nature (like multiple stab wounds or repeated shooting of the body after death)
- carried out by multiple assailants (ie not a serial killer) and covered up by or possibly involving multiple levels of the judicial branch
- massive numbers of killings
There is also a clear indication that the report feels homocaust is a global issue. My only concern in the use of the term is the way it may obscure targeting of specific groups within the umbrella term “queer” or “gay,” like race or gender.
The Case of Brazil
According to Horbelt of Gay Wired:
- 1 GLBTQ person was killed every 2 days during 2008
- 190 people were killed for the entire year
- 48 GLBTQ people have been killed since January 2009
- 2,998 people have been killed between 1998 and 2008
The killers are targeting primarily gay men, trans women, and transvestites in what clearly seems to be a policing of masculinity or heteromasculinity by punishing those that mainstream society sees as transgressing against sex and gender.
According to the translated report @ IPS:
- 64% of victims were gay men
- 32% were transvestites (this is the translation given but this number also includes trans women)
- 4% lesbians
- 45% of gay men were killed in their homes
- 31% of gay men were stabbed repeatedly
- 80% of “transgendered persons” were killed in public
- 60% of “transgendered persons” were shot
Gay men were twice as likely to be murdered than “transvestites” according to these statistics. However, the report also indicated that “transvestites” are 259 times more likely to be killed than gay men in Brazil. One reason cited is the high number of people involved in the informal economy that are targeted and the fact that larger numbers of transvestites and trans women work in these economies due to economic discrimination.
The poorest region of Brazil, in the NE, accounted for 27 of the GLBTQ murders in the study, or roughly 4% of the total people killed in 2008. The study also concluded that if you live in the NE and are a member of one of the targeted groups, you are 84% more likely to be killed than in the South or Southeast of Brazil. The number of people murdered in these regions was not given in the translated text.
In keeping with the definition of the word, authorities have been of little help and may be implicated in covering up or participating in the murders. Despite the documentation, Brazil still does not keep official hate crimes statistics. The failure to classify murders of GLBTQ people as hate crimes means that they miss certain overarching characteristics of the crimes that might help identify perpetrators. It also means that reports such as the one produced by the GGB are forced to rely on media reported cases, which may result in the under counting of actual cases.
In December of 2008, Sgt Jairo Francisco Franco was arrested for the serial murder of gay men in a suburb of Sao Paolo. He is accused of murdering 13 gay men, many in Paturis Park, a popular place for local gay men to find one another. He seems to have saved the bulk of his vehemence for gay Afro-Brazilians; one witness, says he saw Sgt. Franco shoot an Afro-Brazilian in the park 12 times before stopping.
The study also ranks Brazil with other countries with high incidences of GLBTQ murders that might fit into the homocaust model. These include the U.S. and Mexico.
- Mexico – 35 GLBTQ people died in 2008
- U.S. – 25 GLBTQ people died in 2008
It is important to note that there are major differences in population between these three countries. However the report is attempting to put the murders in a context in which they are not solely isolated to Brazil and to give a framework for looking at similar murders globally.
I would add the recent targetting of primarily trans women in Honduras to the list of places that may benefit from the analysis coming out of Brazil. As I reported earlier this year, 200 GLBTQ people have been killed in Honduras between 1993 and 2003. In 2008, 5 trans women were assasinated in the month of December alone. Several transgender activists had been specifically targeted and killed or people had attempted to kill them for speaking out in 2009. The result has been what one activist referred to as “a mass exodus” from the country.