An evangelical minister who called homosexuality a “terrible evil” has been sworn in as mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
Marcelo Crivella of the right-wing Brazilian Republican Party won the mayoral race in October, following the impeachment of Workers Party president Dilma Rousseff in August.
Crivella, a bishop in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, preached that homosexuality may be caused by trauma suffered in utero—and that gay people may be the result of an unsuccessful abortion.
“Imagine being in your mother’s womb and your mother, for a number of problems, trying to kill you—and not being able to,” he claimed. “How are you going to face the world later? It’s difficult.”
Crivella, who campaigned on a promise to clean up crime in Rio, has also called Catholics “demonic” and claimed Hindus drank their children’s blood.
The Kingdom of God Church, one of the largest in Brazil with 8 million members, was founded by Crivella’s billionaire uncle. It’s frequently accused of corruption, money-laundering, intimidation and racketeering.
Imported from the U.S, evangelical Christianity has blossomed in Brazil: In 1970, just 5% of Brazilians considered themselves evangelical. Now that number is closer to one-fourth.
Fundamentalists have grabbed power in Brazil’s Congress, forming a voting bloc that’s throttled anti-discrimination and hate-crime laws: Lower House President Eduardo Cunha, who claimes Brazil is “under attack” by gays, is trying to overturn the 2013 ruling that brought marriage equality. Jair Bolsonaro, a prominent congressman, recommended corporal punishment to “cure” homosexuality, saying he’d rather his son die than be gay.
Brazil is home to the planet’s largest Pride celebration, but it’s also home to almost half of all the transgender murders in the world, and more than 40% of all anti-LGBT violence. According to the group Grupo Gay da Bahia, a gay or trans person is killed almost every day in Brazil—often in gruesome ways.
In June, the charred bodies of gay professors Edivaldo Silva de Oliveira and Jeovan Bandeir were discovered in the trunk of a burning car in Bahia. A month later, a gay student was found dead on the river banks in Rio, naked from the waist down with his head bashed in.
“On the one hand, we are a pink country—celebrating sexual diversity and showing gay couples easily on our telenovelas,” says Grupo Gay da Bahia founder Luiz Mott. “Then, there is another color—the red blood of victims.”
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