Brazil remains a country of sharp and painful contradictions: sordid poverty versus pompous wealth, abundant food versus starvation, infectious carnival versus virulent violence. Now a new addition has found a firm footing in our infamous list of shameful and raging contrasts: gay marriage versus vicious homophobia.
Last week we became the largest country in the world to regulate gay marriage across its entire territory. Now 200m people can marry anyone they love, regardless of gender. Yet they can not kiss and hold hands on the streets.
The regulation of gay marriage in Brazil hardly hit the international headlines, perhaps because the process was quiet and championed by our justice system (instead of the more usual parliamentary route). It is a HUGE achievement nevertheless. The road towards marriage equality in Brazil was quicker and more consistent than in the UK. Tories are still attempting to derail and delay the new law, which has already been approved by Parliament but not sanctioned. Also, the legislation does not cover the whole country, and Scotland and Northern Ireland are still left without gay marriage.
The Brazilian Supreme Federal Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal, or STF in Portuguese) anticipated the Brazilian Congress by swiftly legalising and regulating gay marriage before evangelical and Catholic bigots started bawling and squeaking. The STF voted 14-1 in favour of country-wide regulation. Even the single vote against the regulation simply argued that the matter should be left for parliament, and did not resort to religious and homophobic arguments.
This is both good and bad. On the positive side, it reveals that our Supreme Federal Court is highly progressive and proactive. The STF also acted promptly to legalise pro-Marijuana demonstrations, as well as to judge and to sentence the leaders of the Mensalão (a vote-buying case of corruption involving the main figures in Lula’s government).
On the other hand, it shows that our parliament is highly inefficient, embroiled in horsetrading and political manoeuvring. It is is poisoned by reactionary evangelical hooligans who have engaged in a heinous crusade against equality marriage. They believe that their right to hate and to discriminate is more sacred than our right to love.
Catholic congressmen and women are often more lenient and progressive than their evangelical counterparts. Sadly this is not a reflection of the Church’s stance. It just means that the majority of Catholics in Brazil are non-practising and therefore less indoctrinated. The Vatican and their mitre-wearing Brazilian cronies are very vocal, hypocritical gay-fighters. Last month, the Catholic Church excommunicated a Brazilian priest because he declared his support for gay marriage in a video, yet the same Church has consistently turned a blind eye to accusations of paedophilia. Cardinal O’Brien (the former leader of the UK Catholic Church, who vigorously fought against gay marriage and later admitted to long-standing gay relationships) would feel very much at home if he moved to Brazil – there are plenty of walls and churches to hang his Bigot of the Year accolade (awarded by gay rights organisation Stonewall ).
I was ecstatic when the STF regulated gay marriage across our whole nation last week. LGBT people in Brazil can now marry and benefit from the according rights including pension, inheritance, etc. They can do so in any notary in any of the country’s 26 states and the Federal District. It sounds empowering, even too good to be true. And perhaps it is.
Homophobia is still widespread in Brazil, and LGBT people are not safe on the streets. Sadly our society has not changed as quickly as gay marriage regulation. Contrasts are more conspicuous than ever.
On one hand, we have gay marriage, the biggest gay parades in the world and even our own Ellen DeGeneres (the “Queen of Carnival” Daniela Mercury recently came out and married her girlfriend). On the other hand, we have the biggest number of gay murders in the world (one every 26 hours), an anti-gay preacher leading the Congress’s Human Rights and Minorities Committee (Marco Feliciano) and the leading TV broadcaster Globo refusing to broadcast a gay kiss (by contrast, the BBC featured two men kissing for the first time in 1987).
Even more worryingly, display of public affection is a no-go for gays. It will almost inevitably culminate in homophobic slurs and violence. You may marry your partner, but we strongly advise that you don’t hold hands and kiss the one you love in public if you care about your mental and physical integrity. Brazil’s attitude towards homosexuality is so irrational and confused, mired by Christian guilt paradoxes, that LGBT people are required upmost caution in every step they take, every decision they make and every kiss they seal.
So best to keep your love to, erm… your bedroom!!! Also, make sure that your windows are shut. Homosexuality spreads and reeks. It’s contagious. Stay away from your neighbours’ children. In Brazil being gay isn’t just about coming out of the closet. The big challenge is to come out of the house and into the streets.