Senate approves bill that classifies racial injury

This Thursday (18th) the Senate Plenary approved the bill that typifies racial injury as a crime of racism (PL 4.373/2020). By senator Paulo Paim (PT-RS) and reported by senator Romário (PL-RJ), the bill also increases the penalty for crime and is being analyzed by the Chamber of Deputies.

The proposal aligns the legislation with the understanding of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), which, in judgment, has already decided in this way. The text incorporates into Criminal Law what the STF and courts and judges throughout Brazil have already consolidated: racial insult is a crime of racism and as such must be treated, in all its procedural and criminal aspects.

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The bill removes the mention of race and ethnicity from the specific item of the Penal Code (art. 140) and inserts a new article in the Racial Crimes Law, defining a fine and imprisonment from two to five years. The project cites insults due to “race, color, ethnicity or national origin”. Today, the Penal Code provides for a penalty of one to three years in prison, in addition to a fine.

During the discussion of the matter, Paim thanked the senators for their support and recalled a quote from the STF minister, Carmen Lúcia, when judging this issue:

— ‘This crime is not just against the victim, but it is an offense against the dignity of the human being’. And I complement by saying that the chains that held and tightened the wrists and feet of the black people, with this change, are being broken. That the laughter that was placed in the throat of black people also be broken – said Paim.

In justifying the matter, Paim argues that racial slur is not mentioned in the Racial Crimes Law (Law 7716, 1989), although it is provided for in the Penal Code (Decree Law 2848, 1940). It registers that racial slurs would not be fully equated with the offenses defined in the Penal Code, and that, by constitutional definition, they are imprescriptible and non-bailable. For this reason, the author adds, racism practiced through injury can be disqualified and benefited from bail, statute of limitations and even the conditional suspension of the sentence.

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Senator Romário, on the other hand, highlighted that the number of records of racial insults committed in recent years corroborates the need to deal with the matter more rigorously. He presented data from the 2020 Brazilian Yearbook of Public Security, which indicates 9,110 records of racial crimes in 2018 and 11,467 in 2019, with an increase of 24.3%.

Romário also noted that racial injury is a crime of the highest seriousness, as it strongly affects the dignity and self-esteem of the victim. He noted that it is a behavior that generates a feeling of revolt, encourages intolerance and is not compatible with the values ​​of a plural society free from any form of discrimination or prejudice.

Romário added that the transposition of this item of the Penal Code to the Racial Crimes Law represents, in addition to legal certainty in dealing with the issue, additional proof that society wants to combat the perpetuation of racist acts, as well as punishing potential criminals more severely:

“Racism that reveals itself in offensive terms still used in the little presence of blacks in leadership positions or in the little reference to black history and African symbols in our schools.”

Unfortunately, we still witness racist demonstrations in our stadiums, on our streets, in public and private spaces, but today we will leave here the lesson for everyone of what we should be: increasingly intolerant of intolerance


Senators Zenaide Maia (Pros-RN) and Nilda Gondim (MDB-PB) classified the day of voting in the Plenary as “historic”, due to the themes facing racism. They highlighted the work of senators Paim and Romário as fundamental to the strengthening of democracy, as the measure offers human dignity to all Brazilians.

“It’s a change that treats this crime with the harshness it deserves. There is no individualized racial injury. When someone is attacked for being black, the offense is racist. So, racial insult is racism, yes, and as such should be treated – evaluated Zenaide.

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Senator Lasier Martins (Podemos-RS) joined in the recognition of the author and rapporteur and said that, in Brazil, football can be used as a tool to combat racism.

— A beautiful example of this was given yesterday by Sport Club Internacional, from Porto Alegre, which paid a significant tribute to the Month of Black Consciousness during the match played in Mato Grosso against Cuiabá using Internacional for the first time in its centenary and victorious history, the uniform in black – said the senator, noting that the club from Rio Grande do Sul, with a traditionally colored uniform, has joined the efforts to combat racism.

For senator Fabiano Contarato (Rede-ES), the project represents a great advance in the sense of leaving the speech and giving effect to the constitutional premise that everyone is equal before the law.

— We have to understand that sexual orientation, skin color, gender do not define character. What defines the character is its ethical behavior, its moral behavior, the image, what we did to build a more just, fraternal, egalitarian, even plural Brazil.

* With information from the Senate Agency.

Edition: Vinícius Segalla

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