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Building a Refuge Against Homophobia in Brazil

IN PICTURES: More than two dozen LGBTI people have joined an occupation to seek refuge from discrimination and hate crimes. 

An abandoned Sao Paulo art deco building that was once the headquarters of Brazil's social security agency has been occupied by several members of Brazil's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community seeking refuge from discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTI people.

They were invited to join some 300 squatters who have been living in the building for several months in an occupation organized by Front in the Fight for Housing, an activist group promoting rights of some 400,000 people without decent housing in Sao Paulo.

Brazil has one of the world's highest rates of LGBT hate crimes, despite a reputation for sexual tolerance. Human rights groups including Amnesty International say homophobic violence is endemic inBrazil, where there were 326 murders in the community in 2014.

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Rodrigo (R), 26, Wam (C), 24, and Teflon, 19, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community who have been invited to live in a building that the roofless movement has occupied, relax in downtown Sao Paulo.
Rodrigo (R), 26, Wam (C), 24, and Teflon, 19, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community who have been invited to live in a building that the roofless movement has occupied, relax in downtown Sao Paulo. Photo:Reuters
This building has been converted into a refuge for LGBTI people after a gay person was hospitalized after a hate attack and then thrown out of home by their mother.
This building has been converted into a refuge for LGBTI people after a gay person was hospitalized after a hate attack and then thrown out of home by their mother. Photo:Reuters
"The occupation is a space where we can feel safe," Rodrigo, a tall shaven-headed gay man says. "In the LGBT movement, we just want to live our lives and that means not having to be afraid of who is behind you."
"The occupation is a space where we can feel safe," Rodrigo, a tall shaven-headed gay man says. "In the LGBT movement, we just want to live our lives and that means not having to be afraid of who is behind you." Photo:Reuters
Wam, 24, decorates a Christmas tree with the help of David, 5, in the occupied building in Sao Paulo.
Wam, 24, decorates a Christmas tree with the help of David, 5, in the occupied building in Sao Paulo. Photo:Reuters
Manauara, 24, is one of more than two dozen LGBTI people who have joined the occupation, though many more are expected to come.
Manauara, 24, is one of more than two dozen LGBTI people who have joined the occupation, though many more are expected to come. Photo:Reuters
The occupation of several buildings in central Sao Paulo has lasted several months because of a Brazilian law that makes it hard to evict squatters.
The occupation of several buildings in central Sao Paulo has lasted several months because of a Brazilian law that makes it hard to evict squatters. Photo:Reuters
Gaby, 18, does her makeup in the dimly lit room before going out. Arouche square in downtown Sao Paulo, is a gathering point for the LGBTI community.
Gaby, 18, does her makeup in the dimly lit room before going out. Arouche square in downtown Sao Paulo, is a gathering point for the LGBTI community. Photo:Reuters
Teflon, 19, removes trash together with others from the occupied building.
Teflon, 19, removes trash together with others from the occupied building. Photo:Reuters
Teflon (L), 19, and Gaby, 18, sit on a sofa outside the occupied building.
Teflon (L), 19, and Gaby, 18, sit on a sofa outside the occupied building. Photo:Reuters
Fernando, 24, dances in the building. While Brazil has a reputation for tolerance, some Evangelical pastors, who are becoming increasingly popular in Brazil, have adopted overtly homophobic rhetoric.
Fernando, 24, dances in the building. While Brazil has a reputation for tolerance, some Evangelical pastors, who are becoming increasingly popular in Brazil, have adopted overtly homophobic rhetoric. Photo:Reuters
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