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Brazil: Guns and Greenery

Fri 14 Aug 2009 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Often touted as a forthcoming global superpower, Brazil is a land of deep paradoxes.   Certainly, Brazilian President Lula de Silva is highly gay-positive, but Brazil has a turbulent history, including recent military dictatorship (1964-1985). Despite the restoration of constitutional federal democratic rule in 1988, Brazil's military is still a law until itself.   As for LGBT rights, Brazil's story is mixed. As long ago as 1830, when Brazil was still part of Portugal's colonial empire, Don Pedro I enacted an Imperial Penal Code which did not include 'sodomy.'  In 1979, O Lampaio, the first gay Brazilian publication, emerged, and was followed by the formation of Grupo Gay de Bahia (1980) in Salvador, Bahia- this organisation still exists today. Shortly after the restoration of democracy, Mato Grosso and Sargipe became the first Brazilian constituent states to adopt anti-discrimination laws, in 1989. By 2007, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro and seventy three other municipalities had adopted such legislation. G, Brazil's first home-grown gay porn magazine, opened in 1997.   As for relationship equality, the situation is less clear cut. In 1995, Deputy Marta Suplicy proposed Bill Project No 1151, which would have arranged for civil unions. The bill has been stalled in Brazil's federal Congress since that time, although Rio Grande do Sol, Roraima and Puaui have all adopted state civil union legislation since 2004. In 2006, the first lesbian and gay male adoptions took place, in Cantandra, San Paolo and Grando do Sol. In that same year, President Lula de Silva inaugurated Brazil Against Homophobia. In 2007, the eleventh Sao Paolo Pride attracted almost four million participants.   However, not all is rosy. While three-quarters of Brazil's population is Catholic, seventeen percent are fundamentalist Christians, which has caused some headaches. One obnoxious federal deputy, Edino Fonseca, is notorious for advocating federal funding for fundamentalist exgay programmes (2005) and banning reassignment surgery (2006). Poverty is rife, and Brazilian paramilitary groups carry out 'social cleansing' as they do elsewhere in America. According to the BBC, 2680 poor gay men and transwomen have died this way, as have countless street kids, beggars and vagrants.   Public figures also face their share of animosity. In October 2004, lesbian Eulina Fernandes was eliminated from a northern Brazilian mayoral contest because she was having a relationship with her female predecessor. In November 2005, Globo television network deleted a gay kiss from the final episode of America, a popular soap opera. In June 2007, Richarlyson Felisbino, a Sao Paolo footballer, was outed on national television by the manager of a rival team. In January 2008, transwoman Roberta Goes and her partner were deprived of their adopted baby by a transphobic government official.   Most significantly, two Brazilian Army personnel, Sargeants Fernando de Figuerido and Marinho de Araujo, have been repeatedly subjected to harrassment, prolonged imprisonment, torture, deprivation of medication and food by the military since they came out in the pages of Epoca magazine in June 2008.   Brazil is a land of many paradoxes. Some are benign, others are sinister. It is a complex society and given its status as a rising global player, its LGBT policies will bear close scrutiny in times to come.   Recommended:   Clive Simmons: "Our Desperate Act" DNA 106 (December 2008): 94-97: "Brazil's Troubled Road to Liberation" (97)   Craig Young - 14th August 2009    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 14th August 2009 - 10:36am

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