A man was convicted by the TJDF (Court of the Federal District) to pay R$15,000 (about US$7,500) in damages for the crime of racism for having offended a black woman. The offense happened on a bus when the offender spat in the face of the woman and called her a “nasty negra”. Witnesses confirmed the incident.
The defendant argued in his defense, that he was not in complete psychological conscious and is incapable. A psychiatric assessment indicated that he would have difficulties in social relationships, depressive symptoms, social immaturity and disorganization of thought.
The judge that reviewed the case said that before the Civil Code, even the unfit “is not excused from his responsibility in the civil sphere as to the acts he committed.” Initially, the amount of damages claimed was R$200,000, but the judge held that the payment of R$15,000 was reasonable considering the economic capacity of the defendant.
The incident was originally reported on April 30, 2010. Read the story below. The report below is a translation o the accompanying video.
Man who insulted and spat in the face of a black woman is jailed
The defendant understood that he committed a crime of libel and moral outrage based on prejudice.
Ruth Soares knows what prejudice is. She says that she was never directly attacked, but recognized discrimination related to skin color in little gestures. “On the bus, if there are other people, they can be younger, they get up and give their seat, hold the bag, but they don’t our (black people) things,” said the civil servant Soares.
For the maid Gloria Silva, the problem has to do with the origin. Gloria is from the interior of the northeastern state of Maranhão and even living in the capital city of Brasília for 13 years, she still suffers prejudice. “I have been discriminated against for being from another city. They call me ‘roceira’”*, she says.
In the Brazilian Penal Code there are three crimes against honor and one of them is the injury. The penalty is three years, besides a fine, when crime contains elements relating to race, color, ethnicity, religion, origin, or condition of elderly or disabled.
One of these crimes happened on April 29th, in a bus that traveled to the end of Asa Norte, an upscale neighborhood of the nation’s capital. André Soares Nasser, 35, insulted a 44-year old black woman and spat in her face. A passenger tried to help and got punched in the face. The bus driver did not let the perpetrator get off the vehicle and only stopped when he reached the bus terminal. From the bus terminal, the military police took Nasser to the police station.
“The defendant claimed that Soares gave him the finger. But there were no witnesses to back up his allegation. What we have is the version that he actually stood up, approached Soares, spat in his face and called her a “nasty black woman (negra safada)”, reports the police chief Laertius Rossetto.
André was charged with racial insult and personal injury. The crime is non-bailable so he remains in custody until case goes to court. “We understand that when he began to attack the honor of the victim, his intention was precisely this, to cause a feeling of inferiority and not to commit any crime against the black race”, said the police chief (1).
The case was taken to the police station because the bus driver handed the assailant over to the police at the bus terminal. This kind of reaction is not common. “I wouldn’t do what the guy did because it’s too risky for the passengers. I would have let the guy off the bus and continued on the bus route,” remarked a bus driver, Elson Santana. “It’s kind of risky. Anything could happen afterwards”, added another driver.
* – “Roceira” is an insult directed at a person who is thought to live on a small farm of few resources.
1. This issue of the judgement of whether an insult is an instance of simply a crime against someone’s honor or an actual racial injury or insult is complicated in Brazil. In my view, the defendant referred to Soares’s race when he called her a “negra safada”, a very common insult in Brazil which could be translated as “dirty black”, “nasty black”, or “shameless black”. Some have even hinted that it could be seen as equivalent to calling a woman a “black bitch.” For more on racial insults in Brazil see here