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Brazil: Homophobia, Religion and Politics

Amidst an increasing wave of homophobic violence in Brazil, which puts the country among the world's worst in terms of crime against the LGBT community – as reported in the first article of this series dedicated to the LGBT scene  – federal deputy Jean Wyllys, the first openly homosexual member of the Brazilian parliament, has presented a Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC) to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, recent statements of hatred and prejudice by some parliamentarians, far right groups and religious representatives, who oppose this and other legislative advancements in LGBT issues, have raised a feeling of indignation in the blogosphere.

Image shared in the blog Wihhy's, public domain.

Image shared in the blog Wihhy's, public domain.

Preaching prejudice

"Caution! Religious freedom threatened - Gay Dictatorship in Brazil - Vote against - Say no!" from the blog Amigo de Cristo (Friend of Christ)

"Caution! Religious freedom threatened – Gay Dictatorship in Brazil – Vote against – Say no!" from the blog Amigo de Cristo (Friend of Christ)

An article from Jornal Brasil, republished by O Evangelho (The Gospel) [pt], points out that several religious groups, namely evangelicals and catholics, have been opposing what they call the beginning of a “Gay Dictatorship“ [pt], which includes “homosexual “marriage”, the Ministry of Education's supposed primer against “homophobia” (known as the “Gay Kit”) and PLC 122/2006 (the gay gag law), a bill that intends to criminalize any criticism of or opposition to homosexual behavior or to the intentions of the gay lobby”. In addition, these groups favor the dissemination of ideals which are contrary to the advocacy of LGBT rights [pt].

On this matter, Paulo Cândido, writing for the blog Biscoito Fino e a Massa, criticizes [pt] the “lack of arguments” and the “empty rhetoric”  of the “religious right-wing”:

que mal esconde seu ódio e sua intenção de impor a moral de uma religião à sociedade como um todo.

which barely conceals its hatred and intention to impose the morals of one religion on society as a whole.

Robson Fernando, writing for the blog Acerto de Contas, adds [pt]:

Fora a visão utilitária, influenciada pela moral cristã, que os anti-LGBT possuem da sexualidade – segundo os quais o sexo teria função estritamente reprodutiva –, a homofobia e o alegado “direito de criticar a homossexualidade” têm tudo em comum com a intolerância religiosa e o suposto “direito” de alguém discordar que as pessoas possam seguir outras crenças.

Despite the utilitarian view, influenced by Christian morals, that those in the anti-LGBT lobby have towards sexuality – whereby sex has a merely reproductive function -, homophobia and the alleged “right to criticize  homosexuality” have a lot to do with religious intolerance and the supposed “right” to disagree with allowing people to follow other beliefs.

The cases of homophobia, however, transcend the churches and temples, and have even reached the political realm. One of the figures that bridges the two institutions is the evangelical preacher and federal deputy, Marco Feliciano. Feliciano was involved in a controversy after using Twitter to make several racist and homophobic statements, as journalist Paulo Lopes mentions [pt], quoting: “we love homosexuals, but we loathe their promiscuous practices”.

Homophobia with parliamentary representation

"I don't discuss promiscuity! A son of mine is well educated and has no risk of falling in love with niggers or gays!" Cartoon by Carlos Latuff, used with permission.

"I don't discuss promiscuity! Any son of mine is well educated and runs no risk of falling for black women or gays!"

Federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro, affiliated with the Progressive Party in Rio de Janeiro, recently became involved in a controversy for defending the right of parents to hit their children to prevent them from becoming gay.

Rede Brasil Atual (Current Brazil Network) summarizes [pt] Bolsonaro's most polemical statements in a recent interview on the comedy show CQC (the video can be viewed here [pt]):

(…) fez declarações homofóbicas em um vídeo exibido pelo programa CQC, da TV Bandeirantes, nesta segunda-feira (28). Para Bolsonaro, ele não correria o risco de ter um um filho gay, pois seus filhos tiveram “uma boa educação, com um pai presente”. Ele também afirmou que não participaria de um evento homosexual porque “eu não participo de promover os maus costumes (sic).

(…) he made homophobic statements in a video broadcasted by the program CQC, on TV Bandeirantes, on Monday (28). According to Bolsonaro, he would not run the risk of having a gay son, because his children had “a good education, with a present father.” He also said he would not participate in a homosexual event because “I do not participate in promoting bad habits (sic).

An advocate for far right-wing policies and a former army captain, Bolsonaro has made a habit of insulting human rights defenders as well as defending torture, but has never been punished by his peers [pt].

Blogger José Márcio Dias de Alencar wrote [pt] an Open Letter to the Deputy:

O senhor, futuro ex-deputado Jair Bolsonaro, representa tudo que o Brasil hoje mais abomina. E todos os 120 mil eleitores que o colocaram em seu sexto mandato são totalmente responsáveis por esse grotesco show de horrores protagonizado em nossa recente democracia. Irônico um ex-militar que apóia e se diz saudosista da ditadura depender tanto da democracia pra viver,  não? São 120 mil pessoas que pregam o racismo, a homofobia e a misoginia.

Sir, future ex-deputy Jair Bolsonaro, you represent everything that Brazil today most abhors. And all of the 120 000 voters who put you in your sixth term are totally responsible for this grotesque freak show starring in our new democracy. It's ironic that a former military serviceman who claims to support, and to be nostalgic of, dictatorship depends so much on democracy to live, isn't it? Here are 120 000 people who preach racism, homophobia and misogyny.

Via Twitter, the actress and singer Preta Gil, offended by the video of Bolsonaro shown on CQC, announced [pt] that she will sue Bolsonaro for his remarks, to which he replied that he had been misinterpreted [pt]. Jair Bolsonaro defended [pt] himself on his website and denied that he had insulted the singer Preta Gil.

On the night of March 29, a group of parliamentarians, among them Jean Wyllys, Brizola Neto, Manuela D'Ávila and Ivan Valente, filed a complaint [pt] to the House of Representatives asking them to take action against deputy Jair Bolsonaro.

Neo-Nazis, Fascists and “Nationalists”

Image by the author of this post.

Image by the author of this post.

The statements by Jair Bolsonaro caused the desired effect, and in his defense several right-wing groups staged a demonstration in Avenida Paulista and have been organizing others [pt] against the PLC 122, and in defense of the family and the right to hold prejudice.

Groups [pt] such as Ultra Defesa, União Nacionalista (Nationalist Union), RAC Kombat – Rock Against Communism, Carecas do Subúrbio (Baldies from the Suburb), Integralists and Nazi Skinheads, gathered to defend the deputy and “the family” against the “Gay Dictatorship” and the attempts to criminalize homophobia.

After the protest, at least six people linked to extreme right-wing and hate groups were arrested [pt], which led Eduardo Guimaraes, from the blog Cidadania (Citizenship) to comment [pt]:

[os manifestantes acabaram se] deparando com uma contramanifestação de defensores dos direitos dos homossexuais, um ato corajoso e insensato porque, do outro lado, havia criminosos conhecidos e procurados, o que gerou uma dezena de prisões de bolsonaretes. Em nenhuma outra parte do país, neonazistas e skinheads, entre os quais devem estar os que vêm aterrorizando homossexuais na avenida Paulista, teriam coragem de sair assim tão abertamente à luz do sol.

[the protesters ended up] facing a counter-demonstration with defenders of gay rights, a brave and foolish move because on the other side there were known and wanted criminals, which led to the arrest of a dozen bolsonaretes (supporters of Bolsonaro). Nowhere else in the country would neo-Nazis and skinheads – probably including the ones who have terrorized homosexuals in the Avenida Paulista – dare to come out so openly in broad daylight.

A protest, led by LGBT movements and activists from various segments of the left, was organized on the same day and time as the Nazi-Fascist protest, requiring a huge police contingent to separate the two groups.

Federal deputy Jean Wyllys, in a letter published on journalist Leandro Fortes’ blog Brasilia, eu vi (Brasilia, I saw) [pt], calls for the “defense of human dignity, (…) a sovereign principle of the Constitution” and states:

(…) o limite da liberdade de expressão de quem quer que seja é a dignidade da pessoa humana do outro. O que fanáticos e fundamentalistas religiosos mais têm feito nos últimos anos é violar a dignidade humana de homossexuais.

(…) The limit to anyone's freedom of expression is the human dignity of others. What fanatics and religious fundamentalists have done most in recent years is violate the human dignity of homosexuals.

Despite this whole scenario, there is hope. The PEC proposed by Jean Wyllys, and other initiatives on the criminalization of homophobia promise not only to illuminate the discussion over legalizing marriage for same-sex couples, but also to promote greater equality between all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation.

The discussions of and movement towards acceptance of LGBT, already taking place both in parliament and in civil society, will be the focus of the next and third article in the series LGBT Scene Under Discussion.

This post was proofread by Kitty Garden.
  • Olivia Lovag

    I’ve got one corretion: “Manuel Avila” cited in the text is actually Manuela D’ávila. She is a woman representative (a great one, I must add).

    I would really like to say for sure that these haters do not represent the majority of Brazilian people, but that’s not possible so I’ll say that’s just my guess.

    I cannot cite one person I know that actually agrees with these haters’ speech (but we tend to live in circles of people who are similar to us…)

    Jean Wyllys, the representative behind the gay civil union project, is a former winner of the Brazilian edition of Big Brother. Big Brother has very good ratings in Brazil, then I think if Brazilian people were mostly homophobic they would never have voted for Jean Wyllys to get a millionaire prize. If most were homophobes I guess they’d have never watched Big Brother in the first place

    The number of Representatives that are activelly and openly pro-LGBT is higher than the number of haters, but the haters are very intense and loud in their act.

    I think what happens is that Brazil has a strongly sexist culture. I know other people will say that there are other countries that are like that too, etc, but I only say this because in Brazil sexism is particularly strong, IMO. Everyone has an image in their heads that Brazil is very liberal regarding sex because of all the women in tiny bikinis and sexual tourism. Well, I’ve got news: Brazil is liberal only when the sexual behavior in question benefits heterossexual men. Whatever else doesn’t fit the parameters gets the kind of intense hateful response just like those above.

  • Hi Olivia! The next two posts will report on the advancements of LGBT acceptance in Brazil, namely the approval of the new law (soon will be here in english, meanwhile you can read it in portuguese: http://pt.globalvoicesonline.org/2011/05/06/uniao-gay-stf/), and other social movements which show that not the whole brazilian society is made of haters :) stay tuned!
    ah! and thanks for calling the attention to Manuel/a D’Ávila*

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  • NÃO CENSURE. É FEIO…
    A primeira importante atitude que devemos ter com relação à nossa opinião é que a dos outros tem exatamente o mesmo valor; deve ser respeitada e de forma alguma censurada… Quem censura não tem o direito de protestar contra nada. Não censure o comentário a seguir. Não há erro no meu Email, nem ofensa no comentário.

    Joseph Goebbels, o artífice da propaganda nazista disse que toda mentira dita cem vezes, torna-se verdade… Parece que toda espécie de Mídia, alinhada com homossexuais beberam esse ensinamento, quando usam a Bandeira ou Chamada ou chavão acusativo Homofobia, que é uma exata mentira no entendimento de tornar criminoso aquele, que a juízo deles é o dito homofóbico; mentira deslavada, porquanto, réu é quem infunde medo (fobia, grego φόβος) e quem tem medo é vítima, conforme os Blogs citado abaixo.
    A outra mentira, que consta desse infeliz projeto de lei, é considerar raça (característica intrínseca de cada indivíduo desde que nasce) igual à homossexualidade que, diferentemente é um sentimento homo + afetivo ou um de fato particular gostar de assim fazer e viver de um homem ou mulher, não outro sexo. Bom seria que algumas Senadoras entendessem coisa tão elementar, porquanto o estar homoafetivo é algo abstrato; ninguém é homossexual ou homoafetivo, se assim preferirem, e sim heterossexuais (homem ou mulher) que estão ou praticam sistematicamente a homoafetividade… Que é o motivo de contestação democrática de muitas pessoas, inclusive o Deputado Jair Bolsonaro, justamente pelo fato do uso desse chamado Kit homofobia constituir-se em inconstitucionalidade.
    Não tenho nada absolutamente nada contra os reais direitos dos homossexuais; entretanto tenho tudo contra O PLC 122 OU A DITA LEI HOMOFÓBICA (este é o título do meu Blog), cujo endereço é http://www.verdaderespeitoejustica.blogspot.com , no qual, demonstro ser esta lei, não aquilo que defende os direitos dos homossexuais e sim, um odioso instrumento de Censura; como também está de maneira sintética (sinopse) em outro Blog meu, endereço  http://www.sinteserespeitoejustica.blogspot.com .
    P.S.: Apenas para reforçar como lembrete e gerar interesse ou curiosidade com relação ao Blog citado. CLAUSTRO + FOBIA, FOTO + FOBIA e algumas outras fobias têm plena assertiva nas suas construções, pelo fato óbvio de que quem está enclausurado ou diante de uma forte luz, desesperadamente busca fugir. O que aconteceu com as pessoas que têm conhecimento lingüístico? E o bom senso, o que foi feito dele (no não haver cuidado com o que se escreve e veicula), quando se mantêm o absurdo chavão chamado HOMOFOBIA, que é exatamente contra aquilo que se quer defender?.. Obrigado e parabéns pela dignidade democrática de respeitar opiniões.
    Atenciosamente JORGE VIDAL

  • Meu caro, primeiro, não sei de onde você tirou essa de censura. Segundo, pode continuar falando suas besteiras até a PLC122 ser aprovada. Depois disso terei o prazer de encaminhar este sue comentário às autoridades competentes para que passe umas belas e merecidas férias na cadeia.

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