The Brazil Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (CRA) approved a bill on Wednesday that would establish a continuous residency requirement for the recognition of lands belonging to indigenous communities. The bill, PL 2.903/2023, passed through the committee by a vote of 13–3.
The bill would classify land as “traditionally occupied land of indigenous peoples” if it has been continuously occupied by an indigenous community since October 5, 1988, the date Brazil’s current constitution went into effect.
Indigenous peoples who have not resided on their lands since the constitution’s enactment, or have not purchased them in accordance with the legislation, would not have their land claims recognized unless they were evicted due to a land ownership dispute.
The Federal Supreme Court (STF) is currently weighing a challenge to the government’s October 5, 1988 cutoff date.
Within Brazil’s legislature, those opposing the cutoff date have contended that the endorsement of the bill infringes upon the rights of indigenous peoples and compromises environmental conservation. However, proponents argue that this legislation would create legal certainty and stimulate agricultural production beyond demarcated territories.
PL 2.903/2023 guarantees the indigenous community’s ability to use demarcated lands according to their discretion. However, it gives the Brazilian government the authority to use these lands if deemed necessary for national defense or for projects of public interest, without consulting the indigenous community or indigenous governing bodies.
The bill is currently undergoing examination by the Senate Committee on Constitution, Justice, and Citizenship (CCJ). Following this scrutiny, the final decision will be subject to a vote during a plenary session of the Senate.