The crisis of fatal violence against Afro-descendents in Brazil that sees one Black youth killed every 23 minutes in what some have called an “undeclared civil war,” according to a new Senate committee report announced on Monday, is leading experts to raise alarm over a “genocide” suffered by young Black people in the South American country.
The report, carried out over the past year by a Senate commission on youth murder in consultation with victims of violence and their families, counsellors, researchers, lawyers, police, and other representatives, finds that over 23,000 Black youths are killed in the country every year, BBC Brazil reported. That’s more than three quarters of the total 50,000 annual youth murders.
According to the commission, some participants in the study referred to the crisis as the de facto “extermination of poor and Black youth.”
The report, based on data from the Violence Map compiled by sociologist Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz using official figures, found that the vast majority of victims are men, and that Black men are three times more likely to be killed than white men. Close to half of the 50,000 youth deaths per year are suffered by teenage victims just 16 to 17 years old.
Waiselfisz told BBC Brazil that the homicide rate in the country increased nearly 600 percent between 1980 and 2014. Meanwhile, the rapporteur of the commission, Senator Lindbergh Farias of suspended President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, told the newspaper that the findings of the new report highlight the “true genocide” against Black youth.
The report aims to respond to “what is considered by many to be a culture of violence based on racism and prejudice” and points to a key role for the state in addressing the crisis through effective policy on issues including drug reform, public security, and policing.
One such suggestion arising from the report is a proposed review of the ability of police to claim that they acted in self-defense in order to justify injuries or deaths. Advocates argue that such a step could help reduce victim blaming and hold perpetrators of police violence and brutality accountable.
The report also found lesser-educated groups are more vulnerable to violence and that youth who neither go to school nor have jobs are the most likely to face criminalization and get caught up in gang activities. The findings highlight the need for education initiatives and social programming for underprivileged youth, according to the commission.
The results of the study come as an all white male government with a fierce neoliberal austerity agenda has been installed in Brazil after the suspension of Dilma Rousseff, which one prominent Black woman leader dubbed a multi-dimensional coup with race, gender, and class consequences.
The commission's findings on youth murders in Brazil is set to be released in full later this week.