On Tuesday, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that using homophobic slurs is a crime punishable by prison. The ruling is the latest of several steps taken in Brazil to tackle homophobia, transphobia, racism and other forms of bias that remain significant problems for the country.

The court issued a 9-1 ruling that declared homophobic hate speech a crime for which Brazilians can be sentenced to prison. Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin described the ruling as fulfilling a “constitutional imperative” to protect LGBTQ+ Brazilians. Under the new ruling, homophobic slurs can be prosecuted as “hate speech,” and authorities could potentially punish those guilty of such offenses with two to five years in prison.

Brazil has taken several steps over the last several decades to tackle various forms of bias and discrimination. The country passed a Racial Equality Statute in 2010 to fight long-standing racism, especially against the country’s large Black and multiracial population. Brazil legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. In 2019, most of Brazil’s Supreme Court voted to recognize homophobia and transphobia as crimes under Brazilian law. That ruling applied to violence and discrimination in areas such as employment, while this week’s order extends the law to cover homophobic attacks against individual people.

Brazilian politician Jair Bolsonaro, president from 2019 to 2022, once declared himself a “proud homophobe” and said, “Brazilian society doesn’t like homosexuals.” Other conservative forces in the country have been hostile toward the country’s LGBTQ+ community as well, and violence against that community has been a major problem. In 2022, 273 “violent deaths” were documented among Brazil’s LGBTQ+ community, according to one source.

With such threats to LGBTQ+ people persisting in Brazil, much more must be done to protect this vulnerable community and others who have historically faced discrimination and violence. Therefore, the Supreme Court’s ruling represents one step in a much larger journey toward safety and security for all Brazilians.