Homophobia in Latin America: What’s the cultural cost to pay?

Many laws and advances seem to be around the topic, but being realistic, when talking about homophobia in Latin America things are not that kind. Let’s take a look at the price Latin American society pays for homophobia. 

Previously in Latinamerican Post we talked about the cultural price for sexism. A whole series of prejudices and taboos that still accompany our culture and unintentionally or not make our path to development harder with each one of these. Now is the turn for homophobia and all the handicaps that comes with it for our society.

In 2012, Brazil recorded 44% of all cases in the world of lethal homophobia (homicide motivated by the sexual orientation of the victim). On March 5 this year - when the whole country was paralyzed after seeing the first gay kiss in a telenovela - there had already been 74 homicides since the beginning of 2014, according to the Gay Group of Bahia.

The painful cost in human lives and suffering is compounded by the economic consequences for development. Experts argue that the exclusion of LGBT communities diminishes their economic opportunities. However, the lack of official documentation makes it difficult to calculate how far these costs and their impact on society.

Something Latin America often forgets is the concept of shared prosperity. “Social inclusion is important for shared prosperity. However, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are still excluded in many societies, “says economist Louise Cord of the World Bank." I wonder how much violence has to do with the high level of social inequality in Latin America, historical discrimination against women and indigenous peoples, "adds the expert.

An investigation seems to corroborate the expert's suspicions. Inclusion matters shows how rejection of minorities affects their access to opportunities and basic services such as education and health.

The cost of this for development is difficult to measure, but it is certainly substantial. Globally, 83 countries penalize homosexuality; Of 143 countries surveyed for research, 128 have laws that discriminate against women, and many others have rules that formalize prejudices against various minority groups.

Attitudes towards the LGBT community in Europe and Latin America have become more liberal in recent years, according to experts. The change of mentality in these regions is manifested not only in the greater tolerance towards the gay communities, but in accepting them as part of the norm.

Declaring homosexual is no longer a crime in any Latin American country of Spanish speech (the last to take this step were Nicaragua and Panama in 2008). Marriages between people of the same sex were legalized in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Mexico City. Brazil, Peru and Ecuador passed laws against discrimination. In addition, Argentina and Uruguay, regulated adoptions by homosexual couples.

Despite all these laws, sexual minorities still appear to be at risk in Latin America. It is estimated that in Brazil, homophobia cost 312 people in 2013 (one victim every 28 hours). In Mexico, there were 400 between 1995 and 2005. And in Honduras, 186 between 2009 and 2012.

The difficulty of accurately determining a number of violent episodes or discrimination based on prejudice makes it difficult to formulate public policies to promote inclusion, as well as to reduce violence.

"In Brazil, for example, statistics on homophobic homicides are not collected by the National Secretariat for Human Rights, but by the Gay Group of Bahia, Which obtains information from the newspapers, "said activist Carlos Quesada, an LGBT rights advisor at the NGO Global Rights.

For Quesada, the same Latin American countries that have passed these laws still do not manage to enforce or keep a record of crimes committed against sexual minorities. This sense of impunity, moreover, guarantees that there are more crimes and more prejudices.

"Unfortunately, the fact that there are progressive laws does not mean that people agree with them and comply with them," he says.

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