July 12, 2016

Global LGBT travelers face moderate risks in Brazil, as tolerance of homosexuality is mixed and risks vary throughout the country. Brazil is a country with regional, socioeconomic, and religious diversity, and it is known as a very liberal society. Nonetheless, LGBT individuals in Brazil can experience discrimination, intolerance, and threats to their physical safety due to religious and moral conservatism. Entrenched anti-LGBT attitudes may hamper efforts to expand legal protection of the LGBT community in the near future.

In Rio de Janeiro, the primary location for the majority of the 2016 Olympics events, LGBT travelers are likely to be safest in areas with a high concentration of LGBT venues and in mid- to upper-class neighborhoods. The beaches and neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema are popular areas with both tourists and the LGBT community.

Areas further north and west in Rio, including the Deodoro zone where a number of Olympic events will take place, have a large number of lower-income neighborhoods – known locally as favelas - that pose a risk to LGBT people. LGBT travelers visiting Brazil for the 2016 Olympics should maintain a low profile if attending the Olympic events or other parts of Rio other than areas along the southern beaches.

Brazil’s relatively progressive government policies are at odds with elements of cultural conservatism in Brazilian society. Officially, the Brazilian government protects the rights of LGBT citizens and visitors. Homosexuality is not a crime in Brazil, and homosexual couples have many — but not all — of the same rights as heterosexual couples.

In 2013, Brazil’s National Council of Justice said in a statement that all same-sex civil unions must be registered as a marriage if the couple requests it and that notary publics cannot refuse to marry a same-sex couple, making same-sex marriage legal nationwide. Brazil does not have a nationwide anti-discrimination law in force, but at least 14 states and nearly 80 municipalities in the country have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Despite increasing rights for the LGBT community, conservative elements within the government continue to propose anti-LGBT legislation.

LGBT visitors face a moderate risk of discrimination, harassment, and violence stemming from anti-LGBT sentiment. The risk for the local LGBT community is higher. According to Grupo Gay da Bahia, an LGBT advocacy group, Brazil accounted for 44 percent of anti-LGBT violence in the world in 2015. However, the statistic is likely severely skewed due to higher rates of reporting in Brazil than in other, less accepting countries.

Reports of homophobic and transphobic crimes continue to increase year over year, especially in the states of Bahia and Parana. Violent crime is increasing overall throughout Brazil and attacks against LGBT individuals are as well. Short-term travelers to Brazil are at a lower risk of encountering serious problems than are those in Brazil for longer stays. Tolerance is higher in larger cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro than in smaller communities but homophobic attacks and murders still occur in these cities.

Despite the social discrimination, the LGBT communities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo flourish. Sao Paulo hosts one of the one of the world’s largest annual pride parades, with more than one million people in attendance annually. The state of Rio de Janeiro created an LGBT rights task force in 2010. It has also implemented a hotline for reporting homophobia-motivated crimes and developed military police training on LGBT issues.

As with any travel detestation, preparedness is key. If you are planning to travel to the Olympic Games in Brazil, register to join our Rio 2016 Olympics preparedness webinar for more information about LGBT security threats and mitigation advice. There will be a live question and answer session with our experts during this July 28 live webinar broadcast, on the ground in Rio.