President Dilma Rousseff receives LGBT activists after the protest wave

President Dilma Rousseff receives LGBT activists, avoids talking about ‘gay cure’ and condemns discrimination

Dilma (center) meets up with assessors and LGBT actvisits in her office on June 28, 2013.
photo by Veja magazine

by Sergio Viula

After the protest wave that swept Brazil nationwide in the last two weeks, President Dilma Rousseff started to lead a series of meetings with social movements. This June 28, against all odds, she finally received a group of LGBT activists. Dilma has been resistant to any approach related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Dilma’s misdeeds in education and health

In May, 2011, she banned a project on education against homophobia in public schools handing in to noisy pressure by the evangelical board of deputies and senators in the Congress.

In March, 2013, her government banned an HIV prevention campaign. The video advertisement included two young men who met in a disco and recommended safe sex. The video was aimed at people who are more statistically prone to take risks which includes men that age, gender and sexual orientation. Not only that, but Dilma’s government is also supposed to have allowed changes in HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment programs so as to please the evangelical wing amidst her supporters, so much so that even Dr. Pedro Cherquer, co-founder of the National Program of AIDS, nowadays known as VD, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Department of the Health Ministry, has spoken on the throwbacks in prevention policies that will probably have an impact on the increase of the epidemic. Dr. Cherquer is no longer the man in charge of UNAIDS Brazil.

This year, he decided to resign his position with UNAIDS. In his farewell note to co-workers, he regrets that threatens and throwbacks have become more present on a daily basis within the Federal administration, but he firmly stated that defying opponents “only enhance our motivation to go on, in a perseverant and fearless way, fighting for the principles which we consider to be the corner stone of a free and democratic society – a secular State, respect towards diversity in its several ways, scientific validity for the setting of public policies and democratic and dialectic debate aiming at the institutions improvement”. He severely criticized conservative and fundamentalist sectors as to their prejudiced and dogma-based opposition to policies that play a central role in prevention and treatment of HIV-AIDS.

Dr. Pedro Chequer, born in 1951 in Chapada Diamantina, state of Bahia, Brazil, is an expert in public health and sanitary dermatology. He also has a Master’s degree in epidemiology by the University of California in Berkeley (USA).

President Dilma finally receives LGBT representatives

Different from Dr. Chequer, who takes a clear stand for diversity and against prejudice, including homophobia and transphobia, President Dilma Rousseff has never used the word gay, lesbian, transsexual, transgender, transvestite, bisexual or even LGBT in any of her speeches or interviews throughout her mandate.

Now that her popularity has dramatically fallen from 57% to mere 30% - a decrease of 27%, the biggest loss since DATAFOLHA (a Brazilian institute of statistics) was founded -, Dilma is desperate to connect to people who she had never really accepted to officially meet and whose requests she had never shown willingness to hear.

No wonder, she has not said a single word about her session with the LGBT commission. Every single word about that meeting issued by Brazilian newspapers have come from an LGBT advocate, Mr. Toni Reis, and the Minister of Human Rights, Ms. Maria do Rosário.

According to Toni Reis, the president avoided talking about PDC 234/11, a proposal to rule in favor of “gay reversion therapy,” which has been widely named as the “Gay Cure” project. The fundamentalist Deputy João Campos’ proposal has drawn millions to the streets since March this year to protest against such a violation of human rights. Any healthy mind would boggle at how Marco Feliciano – one of the most prominent homophobes in the country – could be elected to direct the Human Rights Committee of the Federal Chamber of Deputies.  As soon as he got the job, he worked to the fullest of his energy to advance João Campo’s proposal.

Also according to Reis, the president said that it’s the State’s obligation to prevent violence against LGBT citizens. Not surprising, though.  

Not only has Dilma Rousseff’s approval fallen 27%, but also a federal report has found an astonishing increase of 166% in homophobic reported cases last year. Her meeting with LGBT activists took place one day after that report’s release.

"The president said that the State has an obligation to defend and halt violence against the LGBT community – and such statement is very important coming from the highest authority of the Republic,” said Toni Reis, Secretary of Education of the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transexuals (ABGLT).

According to Minister of Human Rights, Maria do Rosário, the president has taken a “very clear” stand against all forms of violence and discrimination in Brazil. “She has set her government against all kinds of violence which any Brazilian may go through, sympathized and determined that we take concrete initiatives to face any violence against the LGBT community.”

The National System to Fight Violence against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT)

The first public audience led by the National System to Fight Violence against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) took place last June 25 in Rio de Janeiro. The objective is to integrate actions by the federal, state and municipal government to fight homophobia and promote respect for diversity.

The system is designed to qualify and widen up attendance on LGBT population, their families, friends and victims of discrimination, besides maximizing actions in the field of human rights, public security and social assistance. The objective is to set a threefold formed by LGBT councils, co-ordinations and state/city plans in all states and municipalities. 

The LGBT National System will remain under public consultation in several states until Monday, 29. It is expected to be launched this year and will integrate all entities in the country, which work disjointedly. It is intended that public policies in federal level are implemented in agreement with states and municipalities, reaching out all Brazilians.

The Brazilian LGBT community does hope to see progressive policies set by the federal government. Would it be the case that President Rousseff’s silence does not mean omission, but strategy? If her government really manages to work in favor of LGBT rights or against homophobia and transphobia, if her ministers, secretaries, assessors and other assistants do put things to work in their fields of action, if they make room for the entities willing to work in that direction, and if the LGBT organizations and activists work for the benefit of the cause instead of trying to personally profit from such an opportunity, then we might be able to see more than a couple of friendly handshakes for the photographers. That’s what the LGBT community, as a whole, is really looking forward to. 

See March against Homophobia and Transphobia in Rio:

See what homophobic congressman Felicano's fuss is about: