07/11/2013 08:23 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Gays Assaulted by Neo-Nazi Skinheads in Sao Paulo

A gay couple was brutally attacked by groups of skinheads in the early hours of Wednesday morning as they left a gay bar in the center of São Paulo.

The couple suffered head injuries and managed to identify two of their attackers after local police detained some of the suspects.

However, the victims declined to press charges leading to the release of the attackers, reported the daily Estadão.

Brazilian LGBT advocates say this further highlights the absence and stalling of legislation against gay-hate crimes, saying the government is failing to protect its LGBT citizens.

According to São Paulo's Secretariat of Public Security (SSP), the couple, a 23 year-old sculpture and his 34 year-old partner, were in front of a bar on Rua Augusta, around 4am.

While awaiting the arrival of a taxi, the couple was surrounded by a group of skinheads, who shouted homophobic abuse against the victims and attacked them by whacking their backpacks on to their heads.

One victim told the police he felt there were sharp objects inside the backpack as he was being beaten.

Surrounded by the aggressors, the couple was saved by the security guard of the bar, which let the victims back into the safety of the now closed bar.

The couple received head injuries and was taken to the emergency room of the Santa Casa de São Paulo Hospital, where they were treated and released.

Policemen who were patrolling the area were alerted, and questioned the victims about the characteristics of suspects.

Shortly later, police three men and a woman. They also found in a backpack of one of them a wooden bat with nails and nunchacku, weapon consisting of two sticks connected by a chain used in martial arts. In addition, a knife was found in the woman's handbag.

Of the four arrested, two men were recognized by the victims as those responsible for the attacks.

However, as the couple preferred not to press charges formally, the attackers were released.

Brazilian LGBT advocates say the incident, happening in what is considered a safe gay area in a city that holds the world's largest gay pride event, highlights the urgent need for a nation-wide legislation against gay-hate crimes.

Last year a Brazilian law student has been brutally attacked in São Paulo, and in 2010 three gay men were brutally attacked on Avenida Paulista, the city's main avenue where gay pride takes place yearly.

A so called Anti-Homophobia draft law (named PLC 122) calls for up to three years in prison for anyone found guilty of discriminating or inciting violence against LGBT people has been stalled for years in congress, despite such incidents and subsequent call for urgent legislation by local and international rights bodies.

This recent case of anti-gay violence in the heart of one of the two main gay areas of São Paulo just urgent need to criminalize hate crimes in Brazil.

Luiz Henrique, a Brazilian journalist and LGBT rights advocate stated: "Since only the Federal government can regulate criminal laws in the country, São Paulo or any other state in Brazil may have anti-discrimination laws but they cannot legislate such a criminal law.

"While legislation criminalizing hate crimes against race and religion exists, sexual orientation and gender identity have been excluded, despite a draft bill attempting to include them being stalled by federal lawmakers since 2006."

Brazil's powerful evangelical lobby has managed to torpedo any discussion of the bill, but other centrist and even left wing parties seem at times complacent in order to keep the lobby as potential political allies; President Dilma Rousseff seems reluctant to take a definite stance. She has kept conspicuously quiet on the issue, when it appeared in the media following this particular incident and others.

Eduardo Piza Gomes de Mello, a lawyer and LGBT and Human Rights defender from São Paulo commented: "Although the overall crime rate is down sharply in major cities, murders of transgender, gays and lesbians people are on the rise.

"According to a survey conducted by GGB - Gay Group of Bahia in 2012, 338 people were murdered in Brazil because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity, which means one death every 26 hours. Of this total alone, 45 victims are from the state of São Paulo.

"Another survey conducted by the Human Rights Secretariat of the Brazilian presidency points out that in 2012 in São Paulo, there were 409 complaints regarding 817 hate based incidents against the LGBT population, with September attaining a record number of 46 complaints.

"There was an increase of 107% compared to 2011 when 197 complaints were reported.

"The failure of the Brazilian state to act is linked to fundamentalist Christian groups, particularly evangelical neo Pentecostal, which constitute a solid ally of the ruling government and have a policy openly promoting the reduction of the rights of LGBT citizens.

"The Brazilian state is thus running the risk of weakening its links to secularism and strengthening politics and policies aligned with Christian fundamentalism to the detriment of LGBT citizens and other minorities throughout the country."