Warning that despite a wealth of legislation, minority groups in Brazil have not seen the promises of equality fulfilled, a United Nations human rights today urged Brazilian authorities to introduce immediate measures to overcome serious structural challenges facing the country’s most vulnerable communities.
“I do believe that Brazil is on the right track in terms of developing laws and policies to tackle discrimination, racism and injustice. However, many of these legislative developments, whilst having impact in the long term, do not meet the urgent demands that disadvantaged minorities often want and need,” said, Rita Izsák, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, as she wrapped up her fist official visit to the country.
She urged Brazil to ensure continuing the dialogue and trust-building among the different actors of society. Otherwise, it might “fail to capitalize on the advancements made thus far, and damage its already delicate social fabric.”
Poverty, injustice, discrimination and violence are everyday life experiences of black communities, who although constitute a numerical majority, identify themselves as a political minority, said Ms. Izsák, noting: “the high murder rates – at a shocking rate of 56,000 victims every year – have to come to an end.
This particularly affects Afro-Brazilians as they constitute 75 per cent of all victims. There is a need to abolish the military police, remove the mechanism of auto de resistencia and treat all deaths as homicide cases, prosecute the perpetrators and provide psycho-social support for the families of the victims, especially the mothers who lost their children.
Ms. Izsák called on the Brazilian Government to speed up the process of land demarcation and entitlement of the Quilombo communities. “All development projects taking place on Quilombo lands must seek free, prior and informed consent of the affected communities,” she said, adding that the community must be provided services to prevent youth from engaging crime and violence. In addition, schools in Quilombo areas also must be accessible and provide quality education.
The Special Rapporteur went on to draw particular attention to and consulted with members of the Roma (Cigano) community who seemed to be “highly invisible” in Brazil, despite an estimated population of 800,000.
“They are still largely stereotyped […] as thieves, beggars or fortune tellers,” she noted, welcoming several new Government initiatives designed to learn more about their situation and to address their vulnerable position in the society.
During her 11-day mission, the human rights expert visited Brasilia and several other cities. Ms. Izsák congratulated Brazil for its harmonious inter-religious relations, which widely prevails across the country, however, cautioned that Afro-Brazilian traditional temples have been undergoing serious attacks, threats and violence, and even killings of their leaders.
UN expert also met with Government and UN officials during her visit, various minority communities, and a wide range of civil society and human rights organizations and other non-State actors. The Special Rapporteur will present a report containing her findings and recommendations to the Government and to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.