U.S. Asylum Granted to Persectued Gay Brazilian

Columbia University wins asylum for a man who fears persecution due to his sexual orientation if forced to return to Brazil.

“In Brazil, I lived in constant fear for my life,” said Augusto Pereira de Souza, 27. “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. For me, coming to the U.S. was a life or death decision.”

Grupo Gay de Bahia, the leading LGBT rights organization in Brazil, reports that between 1980 and 2009 there were 2,998 murders
of gay people in Brazil. In 2008 alone, over 190 LGBT identified people were murdered, although the actual number may
be higher as many of these cases are
likely not reported.

Rena Stern, a student who worked on the case, said, “Mr. Pereira de Souza’s story is unfortunately not unusual for a gay man in Brazil. The number of attacks and murders based on sexual orientation in Brazil has actually increased in recent years.” Pereira de Souza was referred to the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic by a national U.S. organization, Immigration Equality, which focuses on immigration rights for LGBT individuals.

Another clinic student who helped Pereira de Souza prepare his asylum application, Brian Ward, stated, “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. Asylum will allow Mr. Pereira de Souza to stay in the United States where he will no longer have to fear for his life.”

Altogether, Brazil is generally tolerant of homosexuality in urban environments, but discrimination does exist in some rural and isolated areas. Sao Paulo hosts the largest gay parade in the world every year, with millions in attendance, and trans folks and gender-benders are featured prominently in Brazilian carnival and other celebrations.