sábado, 9 de agosto de 2008

Artigo do GRIT na Primeira Edição do Destination: Equality

A primeira edição do Destination: Equality, o novo magazine da ILGA-Europa, publicado em inglês, e com edição semestral, é dedicada especialmente à temática transgénero – e lá podem encontrar um artigo produzido pelo GRIT, abordando o caso de Gisberta Salce Júnior. Gisberta, mulher transsexual de origem brasileira, foi encontrada encontrada morta num prédio inacabado no centro do Porto em Fevereiro de 2006, depois de ser vítima, ao longo de vários dias, de agressões verbais e físicas por um grupo de adolescentes entre os 12 e os 16 anos de idade.

Transphobic hate crimes

Brutal murder of Gisberta

This article remembers the brutal killing of Gisberta Salce Júnior in Oporto and reflects on the social exclusion and marginalisation that help such hate crimes to take place.

Gisberta, a 46 year old Brazilian citizen, was a transsexual woman living in Oporto. In February 2006, she was brutally beaten and killed by a group of fourteen adolescent boys, aged between 12 and 16. This group of adolescents – most of whom were under the care of a state-financed foster institution – had been told by one of them about a 'man with breasts that looked like a woman'. When the group met Gisberta at the abandoned construction site that she lived in, they verbally abused her several times. Within weeks, the abuse had escalated to the point that they physically assaulted her on 15 February. She was beaten with sticks, burnt with cigarette tips, stripped naked and sexually assaulted – there was even evidence of a strip of wood being forcefully inserted into her anus. On 19 February in an attempt to conceal the crime, she was dumped (while still alive) into a nearby pit filled with stagnant water, where she drowned. Throughout this ordeal, and as the perpetrators later admitted, she was repeatedly showered with humiliating expressions like 'sissy' and 'shitty faggot'.

The case involved two separate trials. In the first, the thirteen teenagers who were under 16 were tried as minors in a non-criminal court. Twelve partially confessed to the accusations, denying their intent to kill. The public prosecutor dropped the attempted murder charges and the teenagers were tried instead for grievous bodily harm, attempting to conceal the corpse, and failure to aid an endangered person. They were convicted to 11-13 months in a special educational institution – and the court failed to reach any conclusion with respect to the motive of the crime, stating, however, it had not been out of 'homophobic' reasons.

The second trial led to the conviction of the only perpetrator who was 16 at the time. Previous testimonies had placed him as the main instigator. The court stated it could not prove the charges of grievous bodily harm because the other thirteen teenagers were 'conveniently vague and forgetful' in their testimonies, and claimed they could not remember the details. Written letters, exchanged between the other perpetrators and himself, were later found, in which they stated their loyalty to him, and promised to exonerate him with their testimonies. He was subsequently sentenced to just 8 months of house arrest for "failure to aid an endangered person".

Despite numerous efforts by LGBT organisations, the media reported the victim being male, a crossdresser, or as a 'homeless man'. Her photo – clearly showing her as the beautiful woman she was – was never used in the media. Transphobic motivations were underplayed and the focus was instead on the level of violence and age of the perpetrators.

Gisberta’s story speaks volumes about social exclusion and marginalisation. She was never granted Portuguese nationality despite having lived in Portugal for 21 years. Since she had not undertaken genital surgery, she was not able to change her legal gender1. When in 1996, she lost her job at a nightclub when it closed down, she had no other option but to turn to prostitution. She developed drug problems and STDs, was terminally ill, and forced into begging in order to survive.

At this point, underreporting of transphobic hate crimes is still a serious problem in Portugal. More recently, a transsexual woman called Luna (another sex worker of Brazilian origin) was also murdered, and her body was found in a municipal dump. The investigation of this violent crime is still under way and there is no confirmation on what the motive of this crime was. In any case, it is clear that society has so far failed to protect transgender people against hate crimes, despite the Gisberta case.

1 - In Portugal in fact, there is currently no gender identity law and only the courts can (at their discretion) recognise a transsexual person's new gender. Though there are no set requirements, these almost always include genital surgery; heterosexuality; being unmarried and childless; sterility; and fitting into strict notions of ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’.

Luísa Reis - Associação ILGA Portugal

Destination: Equality
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