A Brazilian lawmaker announced a bill on Friday that would require big companies to reserve 3% of their jobs for transgender employees, a step he said would help trans people escape poverty and marginalisation.
Neighboring Argentina passed a law last year, reserving 1% of public sector jobs for trans workers, but the law drafted by congressman, Alexandre Padilha, would apply to all private firms with more than 100 staff, that receive state aid or contracts.
Padilha, who served as health minister under former President Dilma Rousseff, said his initiative aimed to tackle the discrimination and hardship faced by trans Brazilians – many of whom are kicked out of home by their families as teenagers.
“(Trans people) have to survive without having been able to attend school and, without qualifications, they don’t manage to keep a job. It’s a ripple effect”, Padilha, who has previously worked on LGBT+ issues, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Padilha, who comes from the opposition left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), plans to present the bill in Congress next week, but the initiative is unlikely to garner enough congressional support to be approved, political analysts said.
“It would have quite drastic implications for the companies and for the relationship between the state and the private sector in Brazil,” said Fernando Schueler, a political scientist and professor at the Insper business school in Sao Paulo.
Critics of the proposal said compulsory equality quotas were not an effective way of addressing discrimination in the labour market.
“Most of the quota laws in Brazil, and elsewhere, don’t work,” said Paulo Ganime, a congressman from the right-wing Novo Party.
“They mask a problem and sometimes create even more prejudice over a subject.”
Padilha worked on the bill with the Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Transsexuals and Intersex people (ABGLT), which said the 3% requirement for big companies was “a minimum base”, given the size of Brazil’s trans population.
There is scant global data on the percentage of people who are transgender, but about 0.6% of Americans identify as trans, according to the Williams Institute, a think-tank at the UCLA School of Law.
As well as guaranteeing jobs, Padilha’s bill would require firms to respect trans people’s chosen names, clothing preferences, and their choice of bathroom.
ABGLT President, Symmy Larrat, acknowledged that the initiative faces an uphill struggle in Congress:
“We know that the conservatives won’t let us make much progress (but) we will fight for more spaces and rights,” she said.
– Jennifer Ann Thomas @jennyann_thomas – Thomson Reuters Foundation