Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Brazilian Granted Asylum By Homeland Security: Hope Now For Uganda?

L to R - Rena Stern, Augusto Pereira de Souza, and Brian Ward

New York City – A gay Brazilian man has been granted asylum in the United States on the grounds that deportation to Brazil would threaten his life.  Columbia University’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic won asylum for Augusto Pereira de Souza, 27, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in a move that may bring hope to thousands of Ugandan LGBT persons in the event that the odious “Kill the Gays Bill” becomes law in Uganda.  The news highlights the danger LGBT people face in Brazil.  According to Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB), the largest LGBT rights organization in Brazil, between 1980 and 2009, there were 2,998 murders of LGBT people in Brazil.  In 2008, 190 such murders were reported, though the GGB notes that since many crimes against LGBT people go unreported in Brazil, the actual number of people who lost their lives because of their sexual orientation is likely much greater.  Calling his decision to petition for asylum in the United States “a matter of life or death,” Augusto Pereira de Souza told reporters, “In Brazil, I lived in constant fear for my life. I tried to hide that I was gay, but still faced repeated beatings, attacks, and threats on my life because I was gay. At times I was attacked by skinheads and brutally beaten by cops. After the cops attack you and threaten your life for being gay, you learn quickly that there is no one that will protect you.”  He will now live openly as a gay man in Newark, New Jersey, where he had lived for some time hiding his sexual orientation.  Pereira de Souza’s writ of freedom is thanks to the tireless legal work of three students from Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, Rena Stern, Brian Ward, and Mark Musico.  The trio of law students worked on the case since last September under the direction of clinic director, Dr. Suzanne Goldberg.  In a statement reported by The Advocate, Ward said, “In Brazil, police routinely fail to investigate violence committed against GLBT individuals. In this environment, skinheads and other groups are free to persecute, torture, and even kill GLBT individuals with impunity.”  Stern, who also assisted with Pereira de Souza’s case, said attacks and murder based on sexual orientation in Brazil appear to be on the rise there. 
“Mr Pereira de Souza’s story is unfortunately not unusual for a gay man in Brazil.”  Such a grant of asylum is rare, largely because of the time and expense necessary to file the application and see it through the process of vetting to make sure that actual danger is truly probable for the asylum-seeker.  Individuals must first make it into the United States even to apply, a significant hurdle for foreign LGBT people from countries in the developing world, such as Brazil and Uganda.  For Ugandan LGBT people living in fear for their lives in a country where Parliament is debating the enactment of a law making homosexuality punishable by the death penalty, the decision to grant the Brazilian asylum is potentially life-saving news.  President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have spoken out against the “Kill the Gays Bill” as recently as their appearance at the right-wing sponsored National Prayer Breakfast last Thursday in the nation’s capitol.  Should the Ugandan Parliament enact the bill into law, gay Ugandans could face a death sentence, their families and friends could be imprisoned for as much as seven years, and even landlords who rent to homosexuals could face jail time.  Now, with the Pereira de Souza decision, the door to freedom and life in the United States is opened just a crack for LGBT Ugandans, but it is much more than they had even a week ago.

February 12, 2010 Posted by | "Kill the Gays Bill", anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brazil, death threats, gay men, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, New York, Political asylum for LGBT People, Politics, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Uganda | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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