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At least 48 transgender women killed in Brazil in January

At least 48 trans women have murdered in Brazil in the first month of 2016, Globo reports. “These are scary numbers,” Glória Crystal, the assistant secretary of NGO Livre Orientação Sexual (Free Sexual Orientation) told Globo in an interview about two recent murders in the south of the country. 

Though it is unclear how Crystal came to this number, 48 is quite likely a low estimate. Reporters often misgender trans folks when writing about their deaths, and the media isn’t exactly pouring extensive of resources into covering violent transphobia. This is particularly true in Brazil, but is also the case in more developed countries like the U.S. Jos wrote about this phenomenon last summer when 19 trans women had been killed in the U.S. before we were even halfway through 2015:

I keep making the point of saying “reported murdered” because we don’t know how many trans women were killed this year. The FBI only started reporting crimes committed on the basis of gender identity in 2014, which they are required to do by the 2009 hate crimes law. In the six plus years that I’ve been working in media, there’s been a large push just to have the murders of trans women reported correctly, a project that was going on before I joined this work — and trans women are still so regularly misgendered in death. And the police are not exactly prioritizing finding and identifying trans woman murder victims.

So the fact that the number of reported murders has skyrocketed this year does not mean that more trans women have been murdered this year, or that we even know about all the trans women who have been killed. It does mean we have a little bit better picture of how bad the epidemic of violence against trans women of color is, though. It is my prayer that this knowledge can inspire some action that goes beyond the recent increase in celebrity “visibility” that clearly does nothing for the most vulnerable, and that could even be linked to an increase in violence.

Even without clear reporting on the issue, studying Brazil’s history of transphobia shows that 48 murders within a month is well within the realm of possibility. Prensa Latina reported that in 2014, an estimated 326 trans people were reported killed in Brazil – that’s one person every 27 hours – compared to 22 reported murders of trans women in the U.S. in 2015. Last year Al Jazeera named Brazil the country with the highest rates of violence against trans people, where most gender non-conforming Brazilians don’t live past the age of 30. One only needs to follow Eduarda Alice Santos’ reporting for Planet Transgender to see that violence against trans people has not improved since 2015.

If a country is facing such a devastating rate of homicide, it seems fair to assume that many more than 48 trans people may have been murdered this month but were misgendered by the media, or so marginalized that their death simply wasn’t reported.

No matter the number, it’s too many.

Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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