Brazil’s first openly gay congressman has fled the country in the aftermath of the nation’s recent election and ongoing death threats against him.
Jean Wyllys, who has been described as South America’s very own Harvey Milk, said he was forced to leave the South American nation and is currently residing in Europe for his own safety.
Wyllys’ comments were made during an interview with the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, highlight how shaken the LGBTI community in Brazil remain following the election of homophobic, and extreme right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro.
Wyllys who said that he currently has no plans to return to Brazil or resume his work as a lawmaker, explained that he feared for his life if he continued fighting for LGBTI equality in his homeland, even with a bodyguard at his side. “For the future of this cause, I need to stay alive. I don’t want to be a martyr. I want to live,” he said.
Wyllys who is a lecturer, journalist, and a politician rose to fame after winning the fifth season of Big Brother Brasil.
The following October he was re-elected to a third term as a Member of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the National Congress, but will now not take up the position in February 2019.
While horrified by the election results that enabled Bolsonaro to be elected as president, Wyllys claimes that Bolsonaro’s election itself was not the sole reason for his departure, noting an increased “level of violence” since the election.
Brazil currently has the world’s highest LGBTI murder rate, with 387 individuals killed in 2017 (approximately one LGBTI person being murdered every 19 hours).
Activists have warned that trends indicate that the figure for 2018 will likely be even higher.