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 Call to Action

Transphobic Violence
Transexual Murdered in Portugal
Gisberta, who was a Brasilian immigrant, transexual, HIV positive, sex-worker, homeless, and had drug problems, was found dead on the 22th of February inside a pit 10 metres deep, in an unfinished building in Oporto, the second biggest Portuguese city. The crime was confessed by a group of 14 boys, between 10 and 16 years old, most of them coming from a child protection institution belonging to the Catholic Church and financed by the state.

From this confession, details of the dreadful act are becoming known. The victim had a deeply fragile health condition, and she was frequently chased by these boys, with insults and harassment. On the 19th, a group of these boys entered the unfinished and abandoned building where Gisberta was staying, tied her up, gagged and assaulted her with extreme violence, kicking her, and beating her up with sticks and stones. The group also confessed to having introduced sticks in Gisberta's anus, whose body presented great injuries, and having abandoned her at the scene. Her body also suffered cigarette burning marks.

On the 20th and 21st, they returned to the scene and repeated the aggresions. By dawn, from the 21st to 22nd, they finally threw her to the pit, attempting to hide the crime. The autopsy will clarify if she was still alive. Since her body wasn't floating, but was submerged in the bottom of the pit, it is likely that she died from drowning.

The case was widely spread by the Portuguese media on the 23rd and 24th in a biased and erroneous way. While some of the Portuguese media mentioned the murder of a "tranvestite," most of them mentioned only her "homeless," or "homeless, sex worker, drug addict" condition. Gisberta was also, in some media, called Gisberto, her (masculine) legal name. According to this omition, and even before any details about the murder or about the identity and personal characteristics of the victim were known, many newspapers, in opinion columns, printed articles from opinion-makers (already known in Portugal for their personal opposition to LGBT rights), defending the idea that this couldn't be considered a "hate crime," and that it wouldn't be legitimate to consider any connection with Gisberta's transexuality among the motivations to the crime. Usually, the arguments concerned the young age of most of the aggressors.

At the same time, the press releases of the Portuguese LGBT associations were, and still are, ignored by the media, including the Panteras Rosa and the trans association (@t), clarifying the "transexuality" and victim’s identity, demanding legal and social measures against discrimination and protection against hate crimes motivated by gender identity, sexual orientation, social condition, disease or national origin. They vaguely mentioned a solidarity vigil (a citizen's initiative supported by the LGBT associations) on the evening of the 24th, but, once again, the media ignored the arguments of the associations asking that the transexuality of the victim be mentioned, as well as transphobic discrimination as one of the probable motivations.

Avoiding mentioning "hate crime" with the argument of the underage of the aggressors, with the exception of a few politicians that expressed their personal opinion, no Portuguese political party gave any declaration nor condemned this crime. From the Government, the only reaction came from the minister responsable for underage institutions, that simply stated "the feeling of shock," without any more words or comments, and demanded an inquiry to the institution where the aggressors were. These, with the exception of a 16 year boy, already criminally responsible and in preventive imprisonment, were sent back to the institution and are in a semi-free regime. No other measures are known to be taken towards the aggressors, such as psychological support for the 10 year old boys.

No photo of the victim was printed in most newspapers. The media and the opinion-makers focused the "shock" of the crime in the underage aggressors, and not in the death of a citizen. They gave voice to insinuations of the responsable priest for the underage institution, that even said publicly that a boy from the institution was being "abused" by a pedophile, and this would be a "extenuating circumstance." These declarations didn't lead to the publication of any reaction. Contrary to the current praxis, the data revealed on the 24th about the victim's sexual harassment, as well the possibility that Gisberta was still alive when she was thrown into the pit, were only printed by a Oporto's newspaper. Only four days after the crime was denounced, the media silence about it was almost absolute, and everything indicates that it will remain this way.

Jó Bernardo and Sérgio Vitorino