CYBER ATTACKS DISRUPT THE WORK OF LGBT DEFENDERS IN BRAZIL AMID COVID-19 PANDEMIC
February 2021 - Brazil has long been a dangerous place for both LGBTI individuals and human rights defenders. It maintains the top position in the world ranking of LGBTI-phobic murders, registering 44% of all killings worldwide. At the same time, the country has also figured at the top of lists of murders of human rights defenders, who have to deal with constant death threats and political crackdowns amidst an ineffective National Protection Programme.
This reality culminated in the emblematic murder of Marielle Franco, a Black LGBT councilwoman, whose case remains unresolved after nearly two years of investigations. Today, those in power overtly persecute both groups, creating and reproducing a narrative that associates human rights defenders and activists to political radicalism, claiming they are lenient to crime and errant sexual behaviors, while stroking on conservative sentiment to characterize them as opponents of good morals and family values.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, harassment and intimidation have also moved online to keep up with the changing times. In October 2020, a virtual seminar organized by the National LGBTI Alliance in Brazil was hijacked by a group of cyber-invaders propagating hate speech, Nazi propaganda and images of explicit sex. The event aimed to discuss strategies to combat fake news and hate speech during the upcoming municipal elections in the country, but after the interruption, it was shut down. The event organizers claimed participants were “shocked and terrified”. Nonetheless, some remained connected to collect evidence of the attack. Safety and anti-hacking measures have now become a primary concern for LGBTI organizations when organizing similar events after the occurrence.
In December 2020, Casa Chama, an organization that advocates and provides support to the trans population in Brazil, was also the victim of a cyber attack. Hackers took control of the organisation’s social media accounts and erased a variety of content it had published, such as posts and videos containing information about the rights of the trans population in Brazil, health and safety guidelines, and information regarding the work and activity of the organisation.
“This attack is particularly cruel on the trans community,” said Leona Jhovs (co-founder) when interviewed by Not Only Voices. “People constantly try to erase and silence our existence, and now they are using the same tactics online. The memory and knowledge our community creates is a fundamental part of our survival strategy and it is invaluable”.
Casa Chama was gaining visibility during 2020, as they successfully organized an emergency fund to support trans people affected by the pandemic and started a series of well-watched online events addressing current topics relevant to the trans community. Some of the content erased has already been restored, but Digg Franco (coordinator and co-founder) warns that they are not well-equipped to deal with this sort of attack and continue to be vulnerable to future threats.
“There is a lack of proper infrastructure on all fronts, because we are severely underfunded and have no fixed source of income”, explained Digg to Not Only Voices. “We are not trained in digital security practices and currently only have volunteers working with Information Technology, making it hard to fend off attacks from highly-skilled hackers. We want to continue expanding our online presence and to find new and effective ways to reach and help the trans community, but we need more resources”.
The attack was also reported by Front Line Defenders, who recognised it as part of a pattern of ongoing harassment against the trans population in Brazil, evidencing that trans human rights defenders are facing an increased risk of arrest, physical attack, and psychological trauma while dealing with the current public health and social crisis, which disproportionally affects them.
Marcel Musters is the best Dutch actor of 2019!
Our Chair of the Board of Advisors and co-founder, Marcel Musters, has won the most prestigious Dutch award Gouden Kalf 2019 as the best actor in the Netherlands for his role in God Only Knows. Congratulations!
Participation as Press at the BIFF 2019
From the 20th to the 29th of June 2019, the Brussels International Film Festival took over the heart of the city. The Festival turned Belgium's capital into an exciting space for cinema-lovers by screening Belgian and international films, inviting legendary stars and welcoming new talents to try to better understand and support them.
Not Only Voices was accredited as press at the BIFF. We represented the voices of human rights activists who are trying to use new medias and cinema to raise awareness on social exclusion and discrimination.
Thanks for the opportunity, BIFF!
How to strengthen Brazilian LGBTI civil society?
In April 2019, we engaged with different LGBTI rights defenders and organizations in Brazil to discuss ways to strengthen the national movement. We talked about the need to develop better communication and cooperation between NGOs, the invisibility of smaller initiatives outside Rio-Sao Paulo, the impact of the new government to the grassroots work and current priorities of the movement.
The activists recommended Not Only Voices to work on raising international attention to the current situation of LGBTI persons and to create bridges between them and international funders. Brazil has been suffering from lack of international funds, because it is considered by international actors as too developed to qualify for international cooperation and funds schemes. However, civil society face serious difficulties given the poor national state support. The result is that space for civil society and activism has been shrinking.
On the picture: meeting with Casa 1 - a cultural center and NGO that provides a safe place for LGBTQ youth kicked out of their homes in SP.
We are on the Volkskrant!
In a recent interview with Marcel Musters, the chair of our Board, the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant talked about us.
When asked about the importance of his activism and Not Only Voices, Marcel said "I think it's terrible that activism became something with a bad connotation. It is really good to be active, that is what this time desperately needs."
Our contribution to worldwide free education
Not Only Voices is proudly part of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Monitoring the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, organized by the Global Campus of Human Rights/ European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation. A lecture by Gabriel and some of our interviews form part of the MOOC's Module 1, together with the participation of Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The course dates are from 25 February to 7 April 2019. Other experts such as Douglas Sanders, Frans Viljoen, Nele Verbrugghe and Carlos Zelada are also part of the programme. Monitoring the extent of human rights abuses against LGBTI persons is key to identify root causes, gaps in implementation, and avenues for redress.
Interview to top Brazilian newspaper
Gabriel has given an interview on LGBTI issues to the biggest newspaper of Espirito Santo, a Brazilian state. He talked about the current challenges of LGBTI people in the country, the lack of official data collection on homotransphobic acts and the efforts to form an LGBT+ caucus in the National Congress. He also talked about Not Only Voices and expressed its interest to develop activities with a focus on LGBTI isssues in Brazil, such as conducting a questionnaire to assess the general situation of LGBTI defenders in the country.
3rd Board Meeting
Today, 3 December 2018, we had our 3rd Board Meeting! We discussed about our plans to 2019, such as priorities and fundraising. One main conclusion is that we are considering to focus our next project on the situation of LGBTI rights defenders in Brazil given the election of the far-right President last month and what that may represent to the human rights movement. Every 20 hours one Brazilian person is murdered because of reasons related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. We also talked about the making of the documentary and storyline. We will meet again in April 2019 in Amsterdam.
Volunteering for IDFA 2018, Amsterdam
The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam is possibly the most important Doc Festival in the world. It offers an independent and inspiring meeting place for audiences and professionals to see a diverse and high-quality program. Our Director joined IDFA 2018 and worked at the New Media program IDFA DocLab, which showcases the best interactive non-fiction storytelling and explores how the digital revolution is reshaping documentary art. It was a great opportunity to talk to very interesting filmmakers and get inspiration as we are making our own documentary. Don't miss IDFA 2019 (20 Nov - 1 Dec)!
We are now registered as an Organization under Dutch Law!
Today is 5 April 2018 and Not Only Voices is now officially registered as an organization ('stichting') in the Netherlands! Our Advisory Board is composed by activist and actor Marcel Musters, LGBTI activist and COC's director Koen van Dijk, filmmaker and producer Corinne van Egeraat, manager Margreet Huizing and actor Gijs Naber.
Not Only Voices at the Human Rights Campaign - Global Innovators Summit 2018
Among other leading global advocates for LGBTQ equality, our Director was selected from hundreds of applicants because of the creative, inspiring and impactful work they do to advance equality around the globe. From April 9-12 2018, the Global Innovators took part in intense discussions with each other and HRC staff on innovative ways to advance LGBTQ equality. They shared ideas, best practices and unique approaches to effectively build movements and advocate for equality, whether that’s through family, community or across borders.
Since 2016, the Global Summit has brought together nearly 100 leaders from all corners of the globe who are advancing LGBTQ equality. The 2018 Global Innovators joined HRC’s growing network of advocates and partners from nearly 70 countries.
The Canadian Embassy in Washington honoured us!
Global Affairs Canada and the World Bank cordially organized a special reception welcoming our director and other seven outstanding LGBTQI international advocates to the April 2018 WB Spring Meetings. Not Only Voices was recognized as an innovative and needed platform to promote the rights of LGBTI persons.
Interview to Dutch leading gay magazine
The Dutch magazine Winq.nl interviewed Marcel and Gabriel about their experiences during the trip to Southeast Asia and the outcome of the initiative.
Interview to British show Made With Pride TV
We were invited to talk about Not Only Voices, LGBT worldwide and the current conservative wave of politicians.
Interview to the National Brazilian Radio of Rio de Janeiro
The radio show "Tarde Nacional" invited our director to talk about Not Only Voices. Gabriel also discussed the human rights situation in Brazil and made a comparison to the reality he faced in Southeast Asia.
The amazing British actor and activist Stephen Fry endorsed Not Only Voices on Twitter! Thanks very muc, Stephen. You are a source of inspiration to us.
Gabriel wins AIESEC Brazil Awards
Gabriel was awarded in the category "Peace" at the Alumni Hall of Fame of AIESEC in Brazil (Organization he was part of until 2010). He was recognized by the impact he creates through Not Only Voices and previous job experiences.
We are on Spanish and Macedonian News!
One of our interviews in Myanmar took off around the world and was spotlighted on online magazines in Spain (Loottis) and Macedonia (Queer.MK).
Marcel Wins Winq Prize
Marcel received the "Winq Travel Award" at the Winq Autumn Ball for his contribution to Not Only Voices. The Winq is a leading magazine on LGBT issues in the Netherlands.
We were spotlighted on Gay Star News!
Our story of Criminalized Love in Myanmar was spotlighted on the international online magazine.
‘He proposed to me in front of the Buddhas so his word is real. He cannot lie in front of the Buddha.’
Thanks for your support and spread the word! #3
Gabriel thanks the support of everyone, especially of two civil society organizations in Singapore. Our Facebook page has reached more than fifteen thousand people and our videos were watched more than five thousand times this week! Please also check our youtube page. Gabriel also introduces our interviewee of the week Zaw Zaw, who is a gay man living with HIV in Myanmar and does an amazing work there. Finally, he talks about three LGBTI-related things that happened in the world this week. Check it out!
It has been a great start! #2
Gabriel explains that our videos were watched more than 1000 times this week! Moreover, he talks about our interviewee of the week and share information about an important voting that will take place tomorrow at the United Nations in New York.
Welcome to Not Only Voices! #1
Today is the International Human Rights Day we are launching our website! Not Only Voices is an organization that aims to discuss the contemporary social and legal challenges in the world and connect human rights defenders around the world. We seek to make their work on the ground more visible, and share the different realities experienced by ordinary people. Through an intersectional approach, the ultimate goal of Not Only Voices is to empower groups with vulnerabilities while making individuals aware of their own privileges. We work on the basis that by becoming better informed, every individual can actively generate a positive impact.