June 10, 2000
Brazil Grants Some Legal Recognition to Same-Sex Couples
by Larry Rohter
Rio De Janeiro – In an action that gay groups describe as the first of its sort in Latin America, the Brazilian government has extended de facto legal recognition to same-sex relationships by granting such couples the right to inherit each other’s pension and social security benefits. "This decision is historic and unprecedented, not just for Brazil but for all of Latin America," said Toni Reis, director of Dignidade, a gay rights group based in the southern city of Curitiba. "It creates a model and a reference point for other gay movements in Latin America to begin pressuring their governments for recognition of their civil rights."
As the result of new regulations announced on Thursday, applicants who can prove that theirs is a "stable union" will be treated by the National Social Security Institute no differently than a married couple in cases of retirement or death. The policy also allows people in same-sex relationships to declare their partners as dependents on income tax returns. The government decree, which resulted from a recent court decision, comes while a much broader measure, first introduced in 1995, remains stalled in the Brazilian Congress.
That legislation would formally create "civil partnerships" for homosexual couples who wished to have their relationships recognized by law. But with an election less than four months away, lawmakers aligned with conservative Protestant and Roman Catholic groups are lobbying against it. "We’re cowards when it comes time to decide," said Roberto Jefferson, a congressman who is one of the sponsors of the bill. "Because of a half-dozen religious radicals, the proposal doesn’t get voted on."
Catholic Church authorities had no comment today on the decree. But in the past, the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops has condemned the proposed law as "hostile to the Brazilian family," saying that "it is no different from abortion, which though legal in some countries continues to be immoral." The legislative impasse illustrates "the state of contradiction in which Brazil lives" in regard to homosexuality, said Cláudio Nascimento, secretary general of the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transvestites. "We have an image of being a liberal country, the country of Carnival and tolerance, but at the same time that we see advances in some areas, there are also attitudes against homosexuality that are deeply ingrained."
Gay rights groups here point, for instance, to the high level of violence against homosexuals and what they say is the impunity enjoyed by those who engage in it. By their calculations, 1,831 homosexuals have been killed in Brazil because of their sexual orientation in the last 10 years, with only 8 percent of the cases having gone to court. At the same time, Mr. Nascimento said, 77 municipalities have enacted laws prohibiting various forms of discrimination against gay men and lesbians. The conservative city of Juiz de Fora, for instance, recently decriminalized public displays of affection between same-sex couples, with its mayor, Tarcísio Delgado, declaring that his community wanted to be seen as socially "advanced and in solidarity with minorities."
In addition, the state of Rio de Janeiro last month approved a law imposing fines as high as $5,500 against individuals or institutions found to discriminate against homosexuals. The law also permits the authorities to close hotels, restaurants and nightclubs that repeatedly deny their services to gays. Marta Suplicy, the country’s leading sexologist and the member of Congress who was the main sponsor of the original domestic partnership legislation, said the new regulations "increase the chances that my bill can be approved after the elections."
A recent poll indicates that 54 percent of Brazilians approve of some form of legal status for homosexual couples, compared with just 7 percent in 1994. "This isn’t Sweden or Holland, where the rights of homosexuals are totally recognized," said Mr. Reis, the director of Dignidade. "But we are making progress." Brazil is a socially conservative country: women here did not obtain the right to vote until the 1930’s, and divorce was prohibited until the 1970’s. But Ms. Suplicy said it would be simplistic to attribute such delays solely to a heritage of machismo and Roman Catholicism. "Those are the same everywhere," she said today. "It is harder to effect this sort of change in Latin America mainly because the notion of civil rights is not as strongly developed as in Europe or the United States."
February 2, 2001
Suspect for Letter Bomb to Gay Organization
In an astonishing twist, police are now seeking a former Amnesty International worker for sending bombs to both Sao Paulo’s gay pride organization and the human rights watchdog group itself. PlanetOut News Staff
When Sao Paulo’s Gay Pride Parade Association received a letter bomb September 6, one day after a similar bomb came to the local coordinator of the gay-supportive human rights watchdog Amnesty International, it seemed obvious that the perpetrator must be part of Brazil’s burgeoning Neo-Nazi skinhead groups — but now police are looking at a different suspect altogether: the Amnesty worker the letter bomb was addressed to, Jose Eduardo Bernardes da Silva. Outlandish as that may seem, a postal worker identified da Silva as having mailed the bombs, and forensic handwriting analysis of the notes sent with the bombs has thoroughly convinced Pride chair Roberto de Jesus. Da Silva is currently believed to be in Spain.
There were three bombs in all, another having arrived at Amnesty’s Sao Paulo office before its closure in March 2000, all accompanied by Nazi symbols and threats against groups including gays and those who support them. All three were recognized for what they were and safely detonated by police. They arrived at a time when at least three politicians had received letters that seemed to be from skinheads promising a "cleansing" campaign against gays, Jews, and blacks, while the Gay Pride Parade Association had been receiving death threats ever since its big annual event in June.
When CBN radio broke the da Silva story on January 31, Amnesty’s former Brazilian president Ricardo Balestreri told the Kyodo News Service that, "We were deeply puzzled at the time of the attacks because he [da Silva] played a minor role at the [Sao Paulo] branch and it made no sense that someone wished to kill him." In fact da Silva had been fired three months before the September letter bomb "because we did not agree with his ethical behavior inside the organization," Balestreri said. Balestreri even suggested that da Silva was a spy for Amnesty’s headquarters in London, which at one point fired the Brazilian organization’s managing board.
May 10, 2001
Brazil gay activists lobby for same-sex unions
Brasilia – Gay activists kicked off an intensive campaign on Thursday to convince Brazil’s Congress to legalize same-sex unions despite opposition from outspoken Evangelical deputies and Brazil’s vast Roman Catholic majority. The bill had been due to be voted on Wednesday but was rescheduled for May 16 because the lower house had not gotten to it by the end of the day. Gay rights activists were happy to gain time, however, because they still see resistance to the bill that would allow homosexuals to transfer property and extend social security benefits and health plans to their partners.
"This is going to be a week of lobbying," said Beto de Jesus, president of the Gay Pride Parade Association. "We have a list of deputies who do not have a clear position and we are going to work on them." If it passes, Brazil would be the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex unions, putting it on a par with France and Australia, though still behind the Netherlands, where actual gay marriages are legalized. In the United States, only the state of Vermont recognizes same-sex unions.
But while gay rights activists and a handful of carnivalesque drag queens comb the halls of Congress to drum up support for the bill, Evangelical legislators threatened retaliation for lawmakers who vote in favor. "The council wants to make public what these people are doing, promoting exactly the opposite of what God intended," said Deputy Amarildo Martins, who is Evangelical. He said they will denounce backers of the bill from the pulpit.
Martins belongs to Brazil’s Evangelical church, a branch of the Protestant movement that has spread rapidly in Brazil with televised services that particularly reach out to the poor. The bill was introduced in 1995 but has since been modified to allow the extension of benefits to any kind of same-sex "partner," such as a brother or a granddaughter to grandmother to try to ease opposition in a country that has more Roman Catholics than any other in the world. But observers were still pessimistic about the bill’s chances of approval, especially because of religious opposition and because Congress is mired in a series of corruption allegations. "The rule that all are equal (under the Constitution) is only valid when it doesn’t interfere with the higher law, which is that of God," Martins said.
June 17, 2001
Some 200,000 expected for Brazilian gay parade
Sao Paulo, Brazil (AP) – About 200,000 gays and lesbians and their friends, families and sympathizers were expected to file through Sao Paulo Sunday in the city’s fifth pride parade, one of Latin America’s biggest gay events. Starting from the city’s main business boulevard, Avenida Paulista, 18 floats complete with music, rainbow flags, go-go boys and drag queens, were to head for the city center, where organizers set up a colorful market and stage show on a square that is home to many gay bars. Organizers said they were expecting a turn-out of 200,000, compared to 120,000 last year and a mere 2,000 in the first gay parade in 1996.
"This week, Sao Paulo’s GLS community will raise its profile more than ever during the gay pride week," wrote Andre Fischer, gay columnist of the Folha de Sao Paulo daily. GLS is the Portuguese acronym for Gays, Lesbians and Sympathizers, as the gay movement is known here. About 400 police officers were to be deployed along the route, with a heavy concentration on the Avenida Paulista. Police feared possible clashes between marchers and supporters of Sao Paulo’s Corinthians soccer team playing in Sunday’s Brazilian Cup final. Although the match is at the Morumbi stadium on the other side of the city, Corinthians fans traditionally celebrate victories on Avenida Paulista. The match kick-off was scheduled for 3 p.m. (1800GMT), one hour after the gay parade was to start.
The gay parade has received strong support from Sao Paulo’s new, left-leaning mayor, Marta Suplicy, a psychologist and former presenter of a frank television talk show about sex. Suplicy was expected to accompany the parade — and make her opening and closing speeches — on board the official parade float. Free condoms were to be handed out from the float of the Health Ministry, whose program to provide free drugs for AIDS patients has won admiration worldwide.
"I came to the first parade and there were just a few thousand, today we are expecting 200,000," said Tatiana Calvo, a photographer who was heading for Avenida Paulista before the parade. "The parade is important to show that gays are people just like everybody else, we are not stereotypes, we don’t just like to party, we have our rights and we are willing to march for them," she said. "It’s important to advance our rights as citizens."
July 4, 2001
Pelotas Journal: Of Gays and Gauchos (and Brazilian Gaucherie)
by Larry Rohter
Pelotas, Brazil – This city looks much like any other its size in Brazil, but its 325,000 residents are victims of a peculiar prejudice they cannot seem to escape. For more than a century, Brazilians of every class in every part of the country have believed that all the men here are homosexuals. On television comedy programs, any time a skit features an exaggeratedly effeminate character he is invariably said to be from Pelotas. When the local soccer team plays games on the road, the opposing team’s fans bombard the Pelotas players with derisive chants throughout the match. "I went up to Rio de Janeiro on vacation, and as soon as people there saw ‘Pelotas’ on my car’s license plate the jokes and the ribbing started," said Carlos Braga, 36, a supermarket manager. "It gets to be annoying, because it’s really not fair. This is a place of families, with no more homosexuals than anywhere else."
Still, the prejudice against this city in the extreme south of the country appears to know no bounds. Luiz Inacio da Silva, president of the left-wing Workers’ Party, which prides itself on being socially progressive and has sponsored gay rights legislation, caused a national furor a few months ago when he answered a question about industrial development here by describing Pelotas as "a factory that manufactures queers." Brazilian gay rights groups have protested such stereotypes, saying they contribute to discrimination against and persecution of gays in Latin America’s most populous nation. But they also argue that Pelotas serves as a sort of lightning rod for the sexual insecurities of a country in which the ideals of machismo still hold sway.
"In human psychology, the phenomenon of projection helps to explain a lot of things, including homophobia," said Toni Reis, director of Dignidade, a gay rights group based in the southern city of Curitiba. "No one is 100 percent masculine or feminine, so to erase doubts and feel more sure of your own masculinity, you accuse others of not being macho."
It probably also does not help that Pelotas, named for a type of crude leather boat that in colonial times was used to transport passengers and goods across small streams, is in a state that cultivates a hyper-masculine image. The state, Rio Grande do Sul, is a cattle-raising area famous for its rough-riding cowboys, and its 10 million inhabitants are even known as gauchos. "Unless you curse, eat meat with your bare hands, spit on the ground and scratch your crotch, you are considered something less than a man there," said Mr. Reis, whose family is from the state. "My own brothers are like that."
Historians and anthropologists trace the national bias against Pelotas back to the early 19th century, when the city first emerged as a prosperous meat-exporting center. Many local families became rich and used their new wealth to build opulent libraries and theaters that attracted drama groups from as far away as Europe, and to send their sons off to France to be educated. When the young men returned, the story goes, they had acquired French manners and habits. They wore elegantly tailored suits and brightly colored embroidered shirts — at a time when a rough black-and-white cowboy’s outfit was the norm throughout southern Brazil — and spoke in a refined and courteous fashion that made outsiders regard them as dandified intellectuals. More recently, according to Mayor Fernando Marroni, the animated annual carnival here has also contributed to the city’s reputation.
"It was long traditional for the men to dress up as women; people came from as far away from Uruguay and Argentina to see the spectacle, and that just reinforced the image," he said. Richard G. Parker, author of "Bodies, Pleasures and Passions: Sexual Culture in Contemporary Brazil" and professor of anthropology at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, describes the prejudice against Pelotas as "an example of a broader pattern of linking regions or places to notions about sexuality" in Brazilian society. Women from the northeastern state of ParaÌba are assumed to be lesbians, he noted, and "people from Rio are seen as very sensual."
But "the Brazilian male who goes outside Brazil and comes back with ‘strange customs,’ which is a gloss for homosexuality, is a kind of recurring figure" in Brazilian sexual folklore, Dr. Parker said. "It is interesting that the first social representations around AIDS, for example, almost always featured a rich homosexual who had spent time in Paris, London or New York and then come back to Brazil, bringing the infection with him." Despite the mythology about Pelotas, there does not seem to be much of an open or organized gay community here at all. JosÈ Antonio Cattaneo, a local lawyer and gay rights advocate, attributes that reality to zealousness about not encouraging any activity that would add to the community’s reputation.
"I tried to organize a party called ‘The Gay After’ not too long ago, and invited all my friends," he said. "But nobody here wanted to participate in an event that was publicly identified as gay." In elections last fall, Mr. Cattaneo ran for the City Council on a gay rights platform and got barely 500 votes. After he posed for campaign photographs in the main square wearing bikini briefs, a tie and cowboy boots, the local bar association sought to have him disbarred and a rival political party accused him of "exposing us to the ridicule of the whole country" by "denigrating the image of our city." But Mr. Cattaneo remains undeterred. He is pushing to have a "Monument to the Unknown Gay" built in the main square here, and also wants to encourage what he calls "gay tourism" by opening a hotel and ranch for gays and lesbians.
Though Brazilian gay rights groups say intolerance is greatest in provincial cities like this one, Juiz de Fora, a provincial city of 500,000 north of Rio de Janeiro, has already staked out gay tourism. A "Miss Gay Brazil" pageant held there every year since 1977 draws thousands, and the city is one of more than 70 in Brazil with legislation protecting homosexual couples. A similar bill here, sponsored by Mayor Marroni’s wife, who is a City Council member, has also been proposed. It would allow public displays of affection by couples of the same sex and prohibit discrimination against them in housing and public facilities like restaurants and hotels. Mr. Marroni said the project was certain to be approved and would surely generate even more jokes and jeers at the city’s expense, but he tried to be philosophical about the situation. "Everyone in Brazil knows about Pelotas," he said. "That’s better than not being known at all."
August 10, 2001
Brazilian gays lose hope for same-sex union bill
by Marco Sibaja
Brasilia, Brazil – Some Brazilian gay activists said on Friday they are losing faith the country’s notoriously fickle Congress can approve a long-awaited bill legalizing same-sex unions. The bill was close to being taken up in the first half of the year but was removed from the legislative agenda due to lack of support, largely because of opposition from conservative religious lawmakers. "I doubt it will be voted," Beto de Jesus, president of the Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade, told Reuters.
The bill that would give gays legal rights to transfer property and extend social security benefits and health plans to partners — but not to outright marry — would make Brazil the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex unions. It would put the rights of homosexuals in the country on a par with those in France and Australia but below the Netherlands where gay marriages are allowed.
Large Brazilian cities like Sao Paulo, with more than 10 million people, are home to thriving and increasingly open gay communities. The Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade last June drew a record 200,000 participants. De Jesus said when the bill nearly made it to a vote in May, it was entangled in a government push to stop a corruption probe from being created in Congress.
A spokesman for Roberto Jefferson, the legislator who wrote the bill, said Jefferson was working hard to get the bill on the agenda again. Caio Varela, who works for the homosexual rights group Atitude Institute, doubts the bill has any chances of passage during next year whenelections are held in October. That means it will have to be passed during the few remaining months of this year.
"If it is not passed this year, the situation will get complicated as there is no way it would pass in 2002 due to the elections," Varela said. The bill is a watered down version of the original proposal by the left-wing mayor of Sao Paulo, Marta Suplicy, in the hopes of easier passage. But evangelical lawmakers say it could still open the way for same-sex marriages. "The idea that everybody is equal is valid only as long as it does not interfere with the greatest law, which is the law of God," said Amarildo Martins, an evangelical lawmaker.
January 9, 2002
Brazilian rocker’s gay partner wins child custody
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil – In a victory for gay rights advocates in Brazil, where same-sex unions are not recognized, the lesbian partner of the late rock star Cassia Eller has won temporary custody of Eller’s son, lawyers said on Wednesday. Eller died in December of an apparent drug overdose. Eugenia Vieira, her partner of 14 years, received six-month custody of 8-year-old Francisco Ribeiro Eller, nicknamed Chicao, on Tuesday from a court in Rio de Janeiro. The ruling also gave Vieira the right to inherit the recording artist’s wealth and copyrights. Eller’s family had no objections.
"It’s the first case in Brazil that a female partner of a mother gets the custody. It’s still temporary, but … very reassuring," Vieira’s lawyer Alessandra Barros told Reuters. Chicao was fathered by Tavinho Fialho, a friend and fellow musician of Eller’s who died in a car crash before the boy’s birth. Barros said Chicao has spent probably most of his time with Vieira, whom he calls "mommy" and who had been a kind of housewife to Eller, much of whose schedule was taken up by shows and tours.
Activists from the Bahia Gay Group, Brazil’s oldest gay rights organization, claimed the court decision as a victory for the homosexual community, saying it could speed approval of a long-awaited bill legalizing same-sex unions through Congress. "The case represents a change in the ideology dominant in Brazil. It’s a shift away from the right of blood to the right of the heart," said Bahia Gay Group leader Luiz Mott.
May 14, 2002
Brazil’s president supports gay marriage
by Carmen Gentile
Sao Paulo, Brazil (UPI via COMTEX) – Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso announced Monday the second edition of a comprehensive human rights plan that includes a proposal to legally recognize same-sex marriages. The Programa Nacional dos Direitos Humanos contains plans for ending discrimination against minorities, women and physically disabled. "The actions announced today reflect true state policies and not just acts of this administration," said Cardoso.
"The government and society are speaking the same language – in truth the state tries to meet the needs of society which is more organized and aware of its rights each day. "The important thing is that it is a change for the better, which benefits human rights causes," he added. Monday’s announcement follows the Cardoso administration’s first call for human rights reform by six years to the day. Among the standout issues the president chose to focus on were the creation of a national foundation for the elderly and laws to curtail domestic violence.
Brazil has, however, been criticized by international human rights watchdog groups for violations including forced labor and inadequate representation for the country’s indigenous population. Containing 518 proposals in all, the standout initiative was Cardoso’s call for the legal recognition of same sex marriages. Following his call, Cardoso posed for media waving the internationally recognized, rainbow gay pride flag. The announcement comes as good news to Grupo Gay da Bahia, the largest gay rights group in Brazil.
GGB Vice President Marcelo Siqueira said they were pleased homosexual rights were addressed in this edition of the human rights initiative, as gay issues were not addressed the first time around in 1996. "We hope this is the beginning of a new era – it is the first time gay issues have been addressed in an official document," said Siqueira. "We hope that the country will … create compensatory policies for gays, though we still want much more. "We feel we made important conquests in this addition of the human rights initiative," he added. GBB has called for official state recognition of same-sex marriage; removal of the word "pederasty" from Brazil’s military civil code; and legal rights for the country’s transsexuals to change their names once they undergo sex change operations.
According to the gay-rights group Cardoso’s declaration couldn’t have come at a better time. A GGB report released last month claimed 132 gays, lesbians and transsexuals were killed in Brazil last year as a result of hate crimes, the largest number recorded of any nation. Between 1980 and 2001, GGB claims 2,092 gays in Brazil were murdered in hate crimes, an average of 104 deaths a year.
The group says this is the highest rate in the world by far, with Mexico ranking second, averaging 25 murders a year. "Brazil is the world champion of crimes against gays, lesbians and transvestites," according to an excerpt of the soon-to-be released report. "During Carnaval (the five-day country-wide celebration leading up to Lent), everyone applauds the gays on the catwalks, but during the rest of the year, they experience, humiliation, strikes against their character and death."
June 2, 2002
Gays March Through Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo, Brazil – With music blaring from more than 20 sound trucks, hundreds of thousands of people danced and marched through Sao Paulo Sunday in what was billed Latin America’s biggest gay pride parade. Police estimated the number of people at 400,000, twice as many that took part in last year’s parade. Gay pride day was officially opened by Sao Paulo’s left-leaning mayor, Marta Suplicy, who in a brief speech said she was proud of being the mayor of a city that serves as a showcase for gay rights.
A phalanx of women motorcycle drivers belonging to the Association of Women Who Love Women opened the parade on Avenida Paulista, one of Sao Paulo’ main avenues. Waving rainbow flags and dancing to the sound of disco and techno beats, the multitude of gay men, lesbians, transvestites and drag queens marched some three miles for show at the Praca da Republica, a downtown square that is home to many gay bars and clubs.
Organizers attributed the huge turnout to the presence of heterosexuals who sympathize with the gay rights movement. "Heterosexual couples are here with their children because they don’t want them to grow up with prejudice,” said Beto de Jesus, president of the Association for GLBT Pride. GLBT stands for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. "They (heterosexuals) are important opinion makers that help demystify and shatter stereotypes.” For Rogerio Munoz, one of the association’s directors, the parade was a way to "show our pride and protest the discrimination we face in Brazil.”
June 2, 2002
Thousands attend Brazil gay parade
Sao Paulo, Brazil – Tens of thousands of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, cross dressers and transsexuals turned out in Sao Paulo Sunday for Brazil’s annual Gay Pride Parade, an event intended to celebrate sexual diversity. Parade organizers and founders of Brazil’s gay movement say the event’s goal is to improve the image of homosexual and transgender people who often suffer abuse and discrimination.
"The main goal of the parade is to encourage visibility for sexual diversity and let people understand there are many ways to love others," James Green, president of the Brazilian Studies Association, told Reuters. Green, one of the founders of Brazil’s gay movement, said the country had contradictory attitudes toward sexual freedom. "On one hand, you have Carnival where there is openness to licentiousness and sexuality for all," he said. "But the rest of the year, gay men, lesbians and transgender people suffer various forms of discrimination, violence and even murder."
President of the Gay Pride Association, Beto de Jesus, said the parade aimed to improve the public attitude toward sexual diversity and to boost the self-image of homosexuals. "It’s a time when people who sometimes feel isolated and hidden much of the year can be out and open and accepted," said Jesus. Although high profile politicians such as Sao Paulo Mayor Marta Suplicy, who appeared in the parade, and President Fernando Henrique Cardoso have backed legislation that would recognize same sex marriages, it still lacks sufficient support in Congress to pass.
June 18, 2002
Brasilia and Salvador gay parades attract thousands
Brasilia, Brazil – Several thousand people celebrated gay pride parades in Brasilia and northeastern Salvador Sunday. Thousands of people danced around two sound trucks with club-tunes and afro-Brazilian music in the center of Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, in the city’s first gay parade.
"I hope that our parade reverberates all through the northeastern region and that it helps diminishing the violence and lack of respect against homosexuals here," Marcelo Cequeira of the Gay Group of Bahia, told The Associated Press. Salvador is situated about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) west of Brasilia. Several hundred people attended the opening of Brasilia’s gay parade Sunday afternoon on the Eixo Central, one of Brasilia’s main avenues, police said.
Both cities are located in regions that have traditionally shown less tolerance toward gays and lesbians than cities like Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo where half a million people attended a gay pride march on June 2.
23 April 2003
Brazil warns: Respect Gays or Else
The state of Santa Catarina has just passed a law that will fine businesses if they discriminate against gays. Heavy fines will be imposed and recidivists might permanently lose their operating license. images of Latin America’s machismo and its resultant homophobia are changing now that individual rights, such as the right to act in accordance with one’s sexual orientation, enjoy the protection of law.
Following the lead of important states such as Sao Paulo, Rio and Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina has just promulgated a new law, recently signed by its governor, that will severely fine businesses discriminating against gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgenders. No loopholes are evident in the text of this new law. "Any aggressive or discriminatory act against any homosexual, bisexual or transgender citizen will." The punishments are cumulative: A first offence will bring a warning, but any subsequent action will be heavily fined. Fines vary from $300 to $1000 which is a considerable sum in Brazil.
June 22, 2003
Sao Paulo Gay Pride Draws 800,000 People
by Bernd Radowitz
Sao Paulo, Brazil – Hundreds of thousands of people – some decked out in lavish Carnival costumes – danced their way through Sao Paulo on Sunday in one of the world’s biggest gay pride parades. With music blaring from 20 sound trucks, an estimated 800,000 people paraded up Avenida Paulista, one of the city’s main avenues. Police said the turnout was twice that of last year. Sao Paulo is the epicenter of a new self-consciousness and visibility among gays in Brazil. The city is home to Latin America’s most vibrant gay and lesbian nightlife, with about 85 bars, restaurants and clubs, most in the area around the Rua da Consolacao. "It’s my first parade. I’m having a lot of fun with my gay brothers and sisters," said Alex Pritt, 26. "It’s very important to have this parade to end the prejudice that love is only heterosexual."
Taking advantage of the warm weather, Pritt and his boyfriend showed up wearing only white Speedos but other marchers donned elaborate costumes usually reserved for Carnival. The theme of this year’s parade was "constructing homosexual policies" to speed up pro-gay legislation, including a proposed gay partnership law that has been stuck in Brazil’s Congress for seven years. A vociferous lobby of Protestants and Roman Catholics so far has blocked the proposal from being voted on. Congressional commissions also are debating whether to include in Brazil’s legal code punishments for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Mayor Marta Suplicy, speaking from atop a parade float, announced a new program to foster respect for sexual diversity by organizing debates and film screenings in public schools.
In other signs of greater openness toward gays, Brazil’s tourism board, Embratur, said recently it intends to promote the country as a gay-friendly destination. Also, the largest television network, O Globo, has started to include gay couples in its immensely popular evening soap operas. "Women in Love," for example, features a lesbian relationship that has been accepted by viewers, unlike a same-sex couple in the 1998 telenovela "Tower of Babylon." O Globo ended that lesbian story line with the characters’ deaths after viewer dissatisfaction. Gay pride also is celebrated in 22 other Brazilian cities in June and July, including Rio de Janeiro next Sunday. On June 1, at least 30,000 people participated in a gay parade in the northeastern city of Salvador, police estimated
23 July 2003
Gay shopping mall opens in Sao Paulo
A shopping centre dedicated to the gay community has opened in Brazil. The Victor and Victoria shopping mall is in Sao Paulo and has a rainbow painted on its ceiling. It has 34 shops selling clothes, underwear, home furnishings, wigs, sex toys and a travel agency that works exclusively with gay people. Creator of the project, Vitoria Cury, told Jornal da Tarde online: "I am against any kind of prejudice and will not exploit the gay image. I really adore them."
July 15, 2003
PBS Television Report on HIV in Brazil:
Survival Plan: Brazil’s HIV treatment and education programs have produced impressive results, and may serve as a model for other developing countries dealing with accelerating rates of HIV infection.
International health experts explain the importance of donating more resources to stop the spread of AIDS.
Transcript/Report by Susan Dentzer
Susan Dentzer: There is the cosmopolitan glamour of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s cultural capital, and then, just across the bay, there is the far different world of Sao Goncalo. Gloria Pinheiro lives here, in one of the city’s slum neighborhoods, in a home that’s really an unfinished construction site. Pinheiro’s husband, Marco, shown here in one of their wedding pictures, was in the midst of building the house when he died in 2000, one month after being diagnosed with AIDS. He told his wife he had acquired the disease through surgery. She says extramarital sexual relations may have been to blame.
Now Gloria Pinheiro, who’s 46 and the mother of two grown daughters, is battling AIDS, too. For a poor person in a developing country, Pinheiro is fortunate. She’s being kept alive by a combination of anti-AIDS drugs, known as a cocktail, provided free by the Brazilian government. Without that assistance to her and to thousands of Brazilians with AIDS, the drugs could cost the equivalent of several thousand dollars a year. Pinheiro gets her medications at a nearby public health clinic, where she also goes for free medical care.
Gloria Pinheiro ( Translated ): I depend on the medicines that the Brazilian government gives me, and like most of the people with HIV, we’re very poor people. We wouldn’t be able to survive without that. If we can’t even afford food, there is no way we would be able to afford the medication. Imagine us paying for medication.
Lowering the cost of drugs, raising awareness
Susan Dentzer: Brazil is a vast country of more than 170 million people, with extremes of wealth and poverty. An estimated 600,000 Brazilians have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Since the first cases were seen here in the early 1980s, the government has embarked on an increasingly aggressive effort to treat those with the disease, and further prevent its spread. That effort has included making cheap generic copies of some anti-AIDS drugs, and pressing global pharmaceutical companies for price cuts on other medications. It’s also included concerted efforts at prevention, especially through a national campaign encouraging the use of condoms.
Susan Dentzer: To what degree is Brazil a model for other nations battling HIV and AIDS? Many Brazilians told us that their country’s responses had been uniquely shaped by their economy, their culture, and their social ideals. That means that they can’t be replicated everywhere. But Brazil still does hold lessons for other nations seeking to fight AIDS, on both the treatment and prevention fronts.
Dr. Humberto Costa is Brazil’s health minister.
Dr. Humberto Costa, Health Minister, Brazil: The big lesson is that we must see this problem as a problem of all the country, all the people. It’s a very big health problem, and we must think about education, we must think about promotion, we must think about prevention, we must think about treatment, and we must think about social rehabilitation.
Susan Dentzer: Cristina Pimenta is executive director of ABIA, Brazil’s leading non- governmental organization fighting AIDS. She says ABIA teamed up with other groups to fight the disease, amid the advent of democracy and the end of military dictatorships here in the 1980s.
Cristina Pimenta, Executive Director, ABIA: Some of the leaders that worked at ABIA then, were people that were coming from the social movement for the re-democratization of the country, and also other leaders of the gay movement and of the women’s movement. We started working on the fight for the rights of people even with HIV not to lose their jobs, and then the fight for proper treatment and health services in the country.
Government guarantee of anti- retroviral drugs
Susan Dentzer: The new Brazilian constitution guaranteed the right to health care, so a newly created national health system took on the role of caring for AIDS patients. That was a time when little could be done but treating these patients’ secondary infections, like pneumonias, or caring for them as they died. All that changed with the widespread use of so-called anti-retroviral drugs starting in the late 1980s. One was zidovudine, known as AZT. At that time in the U.S., a course of therapy on the drug, depending on the dose, could cost anywhere from several thousand dollars to $10,000 a year. Dr. Paolo Teixeira heads Brazil’s national program on sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS.
Dr. Paolo Teixeira, Director, National Program on AIDS: Brazil adopted since 1991 the clear policy that anti- retroviral drugs should be available for everybody, for every citizen, Brazilian citizen, HIV-positive if necessary.
Susan Dentzer: By the mid-’90s, international scientific trials had shown that giving patients combinations of these new drugs, or "cocktails," suppressed the AIDS virus and drastically extended patients’ lives. But if Brazil were to offer patients those multiple drugs, its outlays for medications would soar.
Dr. Paolo Teixeira: The conclusion was that it would be absolutely impossible to mount this policy buying drugs from big companies and paying the prices they use to… they use to adopt.
Susan Dentzer: So the government decided to begin making its own generic versions instead. To do that, it turned to scientists here at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, or Fiocruz, a government-sponsored health agency located in Rio. They soon figured out how to produce generic versions of seven anti-retroviral drugs. Today, government labs in Brazil can produce 12. Jorge Lima de Magalhaes is production manager at the pharmaceutical division of Fiocruz. We asked him how he thought pharmaceutical companies had viewed Brazil’s entry into AIDS drug production.
Jorge Lima De Magalhaes, Production Manager, Fiocruz (Translated ): I do think they were surprised when they saw a developing country, like Brazil, that could develop this technology to produce these drugs, and that it was being used in a socially responsible way. It wasn’t for profit. It was to meet the needs of the Brazilian people and the people sick with AIDS.
Susan Dentzer: Patents had expired or were not in effect on the first drugs Brazil produced, so there were no legal constraints against making generic versions. But then other new costly AIDS drugs came on the market; many of them on patent. Quietly, scientists at Fiocruz figured out how to make those drugs, too. Then the Brazilian government issued global pharmaceutical companies an ultimatum: they could continue to sell the patented drugs to Brazil, but only at deeply discounted prices. If not, Brazil would invoke provisions of global trade law that permitted the country to respond to a public health emergency by making the drugs itself. The companies opted to slash prices.
Dr. Paolo Teixeira: The more recent drugs offered by big companies in ’99, 2000, and 2001 that were very, very… that were very expensive, after negotiations, have had their prices also cut in between 45 percent to 48 percent and 70 percent, depending on the drug.
Susan Dentzer: Experts say the pressure Brazil exerted on pharmaceutical companies helped to spur global momentum for price cuts. That’s resulted in AIDS drug prices for poor countries that are now about a tenth of what they were three years ago. Today, an estimated 130,000 Brazilians are deemed in need of anti-retroviral therapy, and are receiving the drugs. A nationwide computer system links clinics and pharmacies around the country, and helps keep track of which drugs patients receive. The results have been impressive. Teixeira says deaths from AIDS in Brazil have dropped 50 percent to 70 percent, saving an estimated 90,000 lives. That in turn has produced savings from lower hospital costs and other treatments.
Dr. Paolo Teixeira: We concluded that we saved a lot of money. We estimate in five years about $2.2 billion saved only in direct consequence of this strategy. Of course, that we spend, on the other hand, almost the same quantity buying drugs and providing treatment.
Lessons for other developing countries
Susan Dentzer: Brazil’s experience has also disproved some pessimistic predictions. Some experts have argued that anti-retroviral drug aren’t suited for developing nations. They have questioned whether poor people could comply with the arduous drug-taking therapy. But studies have shown that HIV patients in San Paolo, for example, are more likely than residents of Baltimore to stay on drug regimens, and about as likely as AIDS patients in London. Recently, the Brazilian government notified pharmaceutical companies that it would seek still further price cuts, or make more anti- retroviral drugs on its own.
Dr. Humberto Costa: We want to negotiate the prices. But if they are selling drugs for a very big… a very big price, at a very high price, so we do not have another way without start to produce.
Susan Dentzer: Meanwhile, Brazil has also begun pilot programs to train health professionals from ten other Latin American and African nations. It hopes to show them how to administer and monitor treatment with anti-retroviral drugs. For Gloria Pinheiro, the drugs remain a lifeline. Here, she rests on a couch in her home after taking her medication. She told us one pill feels like a bomb going off inside her; another burns her throat.
Susan Dentzer: Still, she’s determined the keep the disease in check. With her daughter’s help, she’s now learning to read so that she can stay up to date on ways to keep herself healthy.
Other online Special Reports:
Brazil: A Model Response to AIDS?
AIDS in Africa
July 10, 2003
Experts discuss how the U.S. and other nations can help African countries cope with the AIDS epidemic.
May 17, 2003
Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on the AIDS epidemic’s toll in Haiti.
Feb. 10, 2003
Experts discuss President Bush’s recent $15 billion proposal to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.
Feb. 10, 2003
Experts discuss President Bush’s recent $15 billion proposal to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.
Oct. 22, 2002
A look at Thailand’s unique solutions in its battle with AIDS
Oct. 1, 2002
Experts assess a CIA report stating that AIDS is a threat to international security.
July 7, 2002
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July 6, 2003
Dutch Consul General in Sao Paulo, Hans and Rau,l find Brazil is a country where anything goes
In the latest of his fortnightly online columns, David Beresford recalls a small revolution in South African attitudes towards homosexuality
The row over the appointment of a homosexual as Bishop of Reading reminds me of two friends who are now living in Brazil, having – with some help from the Dutch authorities – effectively turned traditional attitudes towards homosexuality upside down in South Africa. Hans Glaubitz, a Dutch diplomat, was appointed to Pretoria in 1997. At the time it must have been seen by some like an act of deliberate provocation by the Dutch government. Hans and his partner, Raul Garcia Lao, were not only gay, but of mixed race (under apartheid Hans would have been considered white and Raul black). To top it all Raul was from communist Cuba, with whom a bitterly anti-communist South Africa had been at war only a few years earlier.
But the country’s new, ANC government proved equal to the challenge and the next edition of the Directory of Diplomatic Missions duly carried Raul’s name under "partner" and he was issued with diplomatic ID. Taking up residence in Pretoria’s poshist suburb, Waterkloof, Raul caused much bafflement wandering around the suburb in shorts, as opposed to the blue overalls, or pink dresses which tended to be the uniforms of gardeners and domestic servants. There were some hiccups, but nothing serious. They did have some difficulty when they tried to join the local tennis club, membership of which seemed to be largely made up of elderly retirees.
The chairman was much relieved when Hans said Raul would need some lessons. "Oh, but we do not take beginners," he said happily. "Yes, I can see that," commented Hans casting a sardonic eye over the predominately octogenarian crowd which had gathered about them. Although South Africa had abandoned apartheid some time before their arrival, the attitudes still lingered. When Raul – a dancer with an athletes’ body – went to a beach which had been "whites only", he found there was a need for other bathers to have an explanation for his presence. "Hey, aren’t you the one who won the 1500m steeple chase in the Atlanta Olympics," two surfers demanded of him ? "No, you’re wrong, I’m just relaxing," said Raul. "OK, guy. We accept you like to be incognito, but you don’t fool us," said the surfers, knowingly.
It was in Cuba, Hans’s first posting abroad, that the couple met and Hans realised he was gay. He came out to South Africa as Dutch cultural attache after a stint in Poland and 18 months as Charge d’Affaires in Sarajevo. Now consul general in Sao Paulo, Hans and Raul find Brazil is a country where anything goes, where sexual orientation is concerned. More than one million are estimated to have attended Sao Paulo’s annual Gay Pride a couple of weeks ago. Hans and Raul are not married – they have a contract of cohabitation which they find sufficient for practical purposes.
They have no complaints about their treatment by the Dutch government, receiving tickets to fly home twice a year – for annual leave and to attend the Heads of Mission conference together – in the same way as straight couples. The Dutch civil service pension fund has long recognised gay couples. Perhaps the most telling test of Hans and Raul, and of Holland, came recently when the Dutch Royal family, led by Queen Beatrix, descended on Sao Paulo as part of a state visit to Brazil. Raul suddenly found himself having to play the part of the official hostess, looking after the crown prince, Prince Willem-Alexander, and his new wife, Princess Maxima. When he first arrived in Sao Paulo Hans’s deputy threw a reception to meet prominent members of the Dutch community living there. Hans decided to grab the proverbial bull by the horns. "Maybe you’re accustomed to see as the Head of your diplomatic mission here a decent couple who are man and wife. Well, you’d better quickly adapt to the fact that for the next four years you’ll have to do with a decent couple who are man and man, because that’s what you have got." It was a lesson about priorities.
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August 3, 2003
Hundreds kiss at gay rally in Brazil shopping mall
Sao Paulo, Brazil – Hundreds of gay Brazilians locked lips at a Sao Paulo shopping center on Sunday, rallying for gay rights after a security guard at the mall asked a homosexual couple to stop kissing. In front of curious onlookers and afternoon shoppers eating a snack, the gay couples staged the "kiss-in" at the Frei Caneca shopping center’s food court. While some waited until the event coordinator gave the go ahead, others were happy to smooch for the cameras beforehand. "I think it’s wonderful. In a world so full of violence, getting worked up about a kiss is just nonsense," said Beth Biagentini, a middle-aged woman eating lunch with her son and cousin at the mall during the rally.
Taking full advantage of the publicity surrounding the event, the shopping center plastered red lipstick kisses across its entrance and around the mall. A spokeswoman for the center said as many as 3,000 people attended the rally, but not all joined in the kissing. "We serve a lot of different groups here, and homosexuals are just one of them.
But if any of those groups want to hold an event here, they are more than welcome," said Wilson Pelizaro, the shopping center’s superintendent. He said the mall stood by the guard’s decision to stop the couple, which he claimed had engaged in an excessively intimate kiss after leaving the shopping center’s movie theater last month. The policy held true for gay or straight couples, he said. But not everyone at the shopping center was happy to savor their food next to kissing gay couples. "I don’t have anything against them, but they should do it in privacy," said Ana Maria Oliveira, taking a break from the shop she owns above the mall’s food court
5 October 2003
Brazil’s attitudes towards gays under spotlight as Rio politicians consider funding ‘conversions’
Brazilian political moves are raising fears that gay rights will be damaged by branding homosexuality an illness, reports Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro Controversial plans to provide state support to try and "convert" Rio de Janeiro’s gays to heterosexuality have stunned Brazil. Proposals put to Rio’s legislative assembly by state deputy Edino Fonseca suggest providing psychological support to homosexuals. Gay rights campaigners have reacted angrily and last week staged a protest against the proposals at a debate on laws relating to homosexual civil unions.
The politician proposing the "support" initiative is a pastor from the Assembléia de Deus movement – a massive evangelical church with significant political clout. Fonseca says: "Homosexuality is not a one-way street. Every option in life has an exit and a return." The pastor, who is deputy for Rio’s Prona area, believes nobody is born homosexual. "In the course of life, one decides. My project is to orientate those people who are suffering some kind of existential crisis so that they receive some kind of support. It’s a social problem," he said. He proposes to "create a support programme within the state of Rio de Janeiro for people who opt voluntarily to change … from homosexuality to heterosexuality".
Politicians and gay rights campaigners have denounced the idea. Carlos Minc, who drafted several of Brazil’s gay rights laws and is a member of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s PT Workers’ party, wants the proposed bill scrapped on grounds it is unconstitutional. "Rio is the pioneer of the most advanced laws in relation to homosexuality and I don’t believe that a project such as this will be approved," he said. "It is unconstitutional because it intends to interfere in people’s sexuality." Brazil’s biggest homosexual rights group, Gays, Lésbicas e Sympatizantes, protested outside Rio’s legislative assembly last week to demand its deputies vote immediately on Brazil’s same sex union law – which the group accuses politicians of stalling over – and also used the demonstration to protest against Fonseca’s proposals.
Opponents of Fonseca’s have attacked his ideas on homosexuality on grounds they take a simplistic attitude. "If I want to change my sexuality, I can’t just press a button," said Jane Pantel, co-secretary of the International Gay and Lesbian Association in Latin America. "Nobody is prevented from looking for a psycho-whatever to help them do this, but those who do are generally coerced into it by religion. "The laws of the National Council of Psychiatry and Psychology forbid this attitude, so this proposal will not be passed," she said. Brazil’s Federal Medical Council abolished a resolution that treated homosexuality as an illness in 1985. However, Rozângela Justino, a Rio psychologist, has drawn up a petition against the 1985 legislation, which also prohibits psychiatrists acting in any way that might modify an individual’s sexual orientation. "For me, homosexuality is a form of behaviour that you acquire and it can be given up," she said. Diva Lucia Conde of the Grupo Lésbico da Bahia condemned Justino’s moves.
"We must not consider [homosexuality] an evil or an illness that needs treating ," she said. Briton David Harrad, who runs the gay rights group Dignidade with his Brazilian partner, agrees. "The intention is to convert homosexuals, which strikes me as being very suspect. This is certainly something that is in line with the philosophy of certain sections of the evangelical church," he said.
Rio’s equality laws are some of the most advanced in Brazil. Since May 2002, the state has been able to impose stiff fines against individuals or institutions found guilty of anti-gay prejudice. Its governors also have the power to close hotels, restaurants and nightclubs that discriminate against gays. And same-sex relationships – considered "stable unions" by the government – are legally recognised. On Wednesday the Parliamentary Front for the Freedom of Sexual expression will be launched by politicians, senators and gay rights activists in continuing efforts to overcome prejudice. But despite these progressions, hostility towards gays continues to exist in Brazil.
"We have an image of being a liberal country; the country of carnival and of tolerance," said Cláudio Nascimento of the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transvestites. "But at the same time as we see advances in some areas, there continue to be underlying negative attitudes towards homosexuality that are deeply ingrained." Public responses to Fonseca’s proposals show many underlying difficulties associated with being a homosexual in Brazil. One gay man, speaking anonymously because he has yet to come out, said: "If I had the power to choose, I wouldn’t be gay. It’s not that I don’t like being gay, but it is a question of simplicity in Brazil. "If you build up a stable relationship here, it can be a Herculean task to have your rights legally recognised: particular problems are pensions and the division of property in separation or death," he said.
Fonseca says his proposals have been misunderstood. "I didn’t expect this would cause so many repercussions," he admitted. He says the 1985 legislation barring psychologists from giving any kind of counselling to people who find themselves in a crisis over their sexuality is to blame. "This is absurd in a free country," says Fonseca. "I don’t have anything against those who opt for homosexuality. They deserve the maximum respect and those who discriminate against homosexuals should be violently punished. "But those who close doors on others because of their sexual choice should be severely punished by the state," he added.
November 26, 2003
Gay union basis for visa in Brazil
Sao Paulo, Brazil – A Brazilian court issued an unprecedented ruling giving a British man the right to a permanent visa based on his union with a Brazilian man, the couple said Wednesday. David Ian Harrad said he and his longtime Brazilian companion, Toni Reis, sought an injunction preventing his deportation to England. "I’ve been making do with tourist visas since 1996, but my most recent one expired Sunday. This time, we decided to see what the courts could do for us," Harrad said in a telephone interview from the southeastern city of Curitiba, 240 miles (400 kilometers) south of Sao Paulo. They sought the injunction on the grounds that their union qualified in Brazil as a common-law marriage.
"The court handed down the injunction on Monday," Harrad said. Lawyers for Harrad and Reis said Brazilian courts have recognized common-law marriages in cases of gay unions before but never for the purpose of obtaining a permanent visa. In granting the petition, Federal Judge Ana Morozowski wrote: "Although they are of the same sex, the authors of the petition live in a state of matrimony, a fact which extends, to Mr. Harrad, the right of permanent residence." Morozowski wrote that the basis of her decision was a provision in the 1988 Brazilian Constitution "prohibiting any form of discrimination, including discrimination as to sexual preference." Reis said, "All I can say is how delighted I am that my spouse will now be able to live with me permanently." Harrad’s marital status would allow him to obtain a permanent visa giving him the right to live in Brazil indefinitely. Reis, a gay rights activist, said Harrad has been leaving and re-entering the country since 1996 on short-term visas. Reis did the same when the pair lived in England from 1990, when they met, to 1996
December 3, 2003
Brazil mayor bars gays from moving to town
Rio Dr Jsneiro, Brazil – A Brazilian mayor has issued a decree barring homosexuals from moving to his town, angering gay rights activists who on Wednesday labeled the act as "neo-Nazi." The document signed by Mayor Elcio Berti on Tuesday bans homosexuals, or "any element linked to this class," from taking up residence and staying permanently in Bocaiuva do Sul in southern Parana state "if that does not bring any kind of benefits" for the town. "This municipality is fighting to support social projects and needs to bring in industries, for which people with strong fists (underlined) are needed to operate production tools," the decree said, citing the need to push up birthrates and "preserve respect and family atmosphere." The mayor was not available for comment.
Allan Johan, project coordinator at the Dignity gay rights group in Parana, called the text "neo-Nazi" and unconstitutional and said the group would file a court appeal on Wednesday to have it overturned. "The decree effectively banishes homosexuals from the town, makes clear that they are useless and thus not welcome," Johan told Reuters, adding a protest demonstration was scheduled in Bocaiuva do Sul on Thursday. Berti grabbed headlines in the past with measures such as the free distribution of anti-impotence drugs and a ban on the sale of condoms and cigarettes in a move to boost the town’s population of 10,000. He also once proposed building a UFO-port to receive aliens. The decree came just a week after a judge in the same state ruled a homosexual Englishman could stay in Brazil even though his visa had expired because he was in a long-term relationship with a Brazilian man.
December 5, 2003
Brazil mayor who banned gays could face charges
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil – A Brazilian prosecutor said Thursday he was considering charging a mayor with discrimination after he signed a decree barring homosexuals from moving to his town. Prosecutor Joel Carneiro da Silva of Bocaiuva do Sul in southern Parana state said his office was weighing action against Mayor Elcio Berti and a regional police chief had opened an investigation. "In any case, the decree is unconstitutional, null and void. The prosecutor’s office is evaluating the situation and possible charges against the mayor," he told Reuters. A conviction on charges he discriminated against homosexuals could land the mayor in jail for up to four years and force him to leave office.
The document signed by Berti Tuesday bans homosexuals from taking up residence and staying permanently in Bocaiuva do Sul. The decree cites the need to push up birth rates and "preserve respect and family atmosphere" in the town of 10,000 people. The mayor was not available for comment. A group of gay rights activists traveled to the town from the state capital of Curitiba to demonstrate against the decree. "Apparently, he did it to draw media attention, as he has done in the past with other odd things, but this time he messed with the wrong people and with the wrong subject," said Roberto Kaiser, president of Inpar gay rights group. Berti previously grabbed headlines with measures such as the free distribution of locally made anti-impotence drugs and a short-lived ban on the sale of condoms and cigarettes in a move to boost the town’s population.