Brazil: Rio de Janeiro prisons seek to protect transgender inmates

Brazil’s penitentiaries are notorious for rampant overcrowding and violence endured by all inmates. But advocates say few prisoners are as vulnerable as transgender people, who are often singled out for taunting, physical, and sexual abuse. In Rio de Janeiro, new regulations aim to curb such abuse within the state’s 52 penitentiaries. Advocates have hailed the rules that ban discrimination against transgender prisoners and protect their gender identities while behind bars.

“In Brazil, even regular prisoners are an invisible to society at large. Transgender prisoners are doubly invisible and vulnerable,” said Claudio Nascimento, who heads the Rio Without Homophobia advocacy group, which lobbied for the new rules. The rules allow transgender inmates to be known by their common, rather than only their legal names. They guarantee access to conjugal visits and let transgender people who identify as female decide whether to serve their sentences in a women’s facility.

Rio’s new measures were adopted amid an outcry over the brutal beating in April of a trans woman at a detention center in neighboring Sao Paulo state. Police are investigating allegations that officers tortured Veronica Bolina after graphic photos of her went viral online. In images taken before her detention, Bolina is striking, with cat eyes, prominent cheekbones and flowing hair. After, she’s unrecognizable, her hair roughly shorn, her face a patchwork of lesions, & her eyes swollen shut. Read More