Brazil: Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Awaits Approval by Mayor

On November 30, 2000, the city council of Niteroi (Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil) passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public places and institutions as well as in business. More than 80 Brazilian cities and 2 states have anti-discriminatory legislation that explicitly includes sexual orientation. Some of them provide specific penalties for those who engage in discrimination, as the Niteroi ordinance does. The measure is currently on the desk of Niteroi's Mayor, who must approve it before it is enacted.

IGLHRC and Cidadania Gay -a local gay organization- ask for letters to the Mayor in support of the measure, as well as congratulatory emails to the councilor who authored the proposal and fought for its passage.

ACTION

Send a letter to the Mayor of Niteiroi at:

Excelentisimo Prefeito
Jorge Roberto Silveira
Rua Visconde de Sepetiba Nro. 987, 6to. Andar
Centro, Niteroi, RJ
CEP 24020-206

Send an e-mail to the author of the legislation, Vereador (Councilor) Rodrigo Neves, at gabrodrigo@uol.com.br.

Sample letters are included below. Please also send a copy of your letters to:

Cidadania Gay
Caixa Postal 100241
Niteroi, RJ
CEP 24001970
Brazil
Fax: 55 21 541 88 63
Email: sergioaboud@hotmail.com

SAMPLE LETTER TO THE MAYOR

Dear Mr. Silveira:

I/we would like to congratulate you and the Niteroi city council, which voted on November 30, 2000, in favor of an ordinance authored by council member Rodrigo Neves, to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation in public places and institutions as well as in business.

The existence of this law places Niteroi among those communities committed to the principle of equality and the full enjoyment of human rights for all, without discrimination.

Non-discrimination is a basic principle of human rights, shown not least by the fact that all major human rights treaties include anti-discrimination clauses. While this global principle has remained firm and clear, its scope has broadened, as both social movements and intergovernmental mechanisms strive to make these affirmations of equality apply in practice to all human beings in their diversity. Sexual orientation has been recognized by the United Nations' Human Rights Committee in 1994 as a category included under international protections against discrimination.

We encourage you to enact this ordinance as soon as possible. Unfortunately, discrimination against gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people still takes place in Niteroi, as in most places around the world. Your rapid approval of this ordinance will send a message that inequality is unacceptable.

Anti-discriminatory ordinances enacted in cities and countries around the world--many of them in Brazil--have proven effective not only as social policy but as teaching tools, as a means for society as a whole to educate itself toward increased respect for diversity. They also convey to stigmatized and marginalized people a message that they belong and are welcomed in their communities. Such legislation helps to build a healthier, more peaceful, and more inclusive society--a direction in which Niteroi should unequivocally wish to move.

Sincerely,


SAMPLE LETTER TO THE AUTHOR OF THE LEGISLATION

To gabrodrigo@uol.com.br

Vereador Rodrigo Neves

Dear Mr. Neves,

I/We would like to congratulate you on your successful efforts leading to the passing of the ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the city of Niteroi.

We praise your courage in standing up against prejudice and for equality, and encourage you to remain as attentive to the needs of those who are subject to unequal treatment as you have been now.

Thank you for the example you have set.

Sincerely,

BACKGROUND

Niteroi is a city located in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

On June 9, 2000 local council member Mr. Rodrigo Neves submitted a proposal for an anti-discriminatory ordinance focused on sexual orientation. He had worked on the project together with the local gay organization Cidadania Gay.

The ordinance mandates the city executive power to penalize any "business, industry, entity, association or service provider that discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation or performs coercive or violent acts against them." Discriminatory acts include those implying "coercion; prohibiting from entering or remaining; differential treatment; additional charges imposed to allow the entering or remaining; in the cases of hotels or motels, charging more than the usual price."

Penalties include: a warning; exclusion from municipal grants or credits; a fine; 30 days' closure; permanent closure.

If the violator is a public officer, he/she will be subjected to an administrative process, in addition to the other penalties.

Previous progressive legislation in Niteroi has prepared the way for this new law. The Niteroi Municipal Code already forbids discrimination based on several grounds, sexual orientation among them, "in the municipal laws and by public officers and institutions."

Moreover, the law was approved in the context of an increasing movement throughout Brazil to recognize discrimination and violence against marginalized communities--including racial and ethnic minorities and migrants--and to protect their rights actively and expressly. During the debate, Mr. Rodrigo Neves invoked the Brazilian Constitution, Article 5 of which guarantees the enjoyment of the rights to life, freedom, equality, security and privacy to "all Brazilians and foreign residents, without distinction whatsoever." Ordinances similar to the Niteroi one have been enacted recently in other cities, including in Fortaleza (capital of Ceara state) in 1998 and in the city of Rio de Janeiro on April 2000. More than 80 Brazilian cities, as well as two states (Sergipe and Mato Grosso), have enacted anti-discriminatory laws or ordinances specifically mentioning sexual orientation. Most, however, do not include specific penalties. The laws in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza, like the legislation in Niteroi, do.

Violence and hatred, exacerbated by inequity and poverty, continue to scar Brazilian society. However, the Brazilian government has repeatedly shown its willingness to address their effects, and to work towards improving the quality of life of LGTB people in the country. Most recently, it has created a national network to protect the rights of LGBT people, providing psychological and legal support to victims of homophobic violence. The network is a joint project between the national Minister of Justice and LGBT organizations in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Brasilia. IGLHRC congratulates both national and local Brazilian politicians, policymakers, and other authorities on their exemplary and continuing work.