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Brazzil
Behavior
May 2003

Brazil Warns: Respect Gays or Else

Following the lead of São Paulo and Rio, the state of Santa Catarina
has just passed a law that will severely fine businesses
discriminating against gays. There will be heavy fines and
recidivists might lose permanently their operating license.

Ernest Barteldes

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. Brazil, South America's largest country, which adopted a liberal constitution in 1988, continues to fashion protections for all of its citizens.

Shortly after electing labor hero Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as that nation's president, to the dismay of Brazil's right-wing zealots, various states are now taking serious measures ensuring that no one will be discriminated against because of his or her sexual orientation.

Following the lead of important states such as São Paulo—Brazil's largest—Rio de Janeiro, 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. The text of the new law does not, at least apparently, give way to any loopholes:

"Any aggressive or discriminatory act against any homosexual, bisexual or transgender citizen will be punished accordingly with the law."

The punishments are cumulative: A first offense will bring a warning, but any subsequent action will be heavily fined. Fines vary from $300 to $1000—a considerable sum in Brazil. In the case of further incidences, the offender will face the permanent seizure of his operating license.

The law goes into effect immediately.

Santa Catarina's bold step into social equality was met with enthusiasm by same-sex activists in Santa Catarina ("Hooray!", read the title of Glssite's newsletter commemorating the law's signing) who worked long and hard to get it passed.

The first Brazilian state to create such laws, which then generated much controversy, was Bahia, the northeastern home of the Luis Mott-led Grupo Gay da Bahia, arguably the largest and best-known gay activist group in the nation. Its laws were enacted in 1997.

A few years ago, this writer reported in another publication how same-sex couples following a lawsuit won the right to receive Social Security benefits previously awarded only to conventional couples outside of wedlock, thanks to a clause in the new Constitution awarding live-in couples the same benefits granted to those who marry.

The UN Resolution

Text of the draft resolution presented by Brazil to be voted on at the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, April 23:

"Human Rights and Sexual Orientation"

The Commission on Human Rights,

Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Recalling that recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Reaffirming that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the principle of the inadmissibility of discrimination and proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein without distinction of any kind,

Affirming that human rights education is a key to changing attitudes and behaviour and to promoting respect for diversity in societies,

1. Expresses deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights in the world against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation;

2. Stresses that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings, that the universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question and that the enjoyment of such rights and freedoms should not be hindered in any way on the grounds of sexual orientation;

3. Calls upon all States to promote and protect the human rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation;

4. Notes the attention given to human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation by the special procedures in their reports to the Commission on Human Rights, as well as by the treaty monitoring bodies, and encourages all special procedures of the Commission, within their mandates, to give due attention to the subject;

5. Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to pay due attention to the violation of human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation;

6. Decides to continue consideration of the matter at its sixtieth session under the same agenda item.

Ernest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance writer who has regularly been contributing The Greenwich Village Gazette since September 1999. His work has also been published by Brazzil, The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island Register, The SI Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and other publications. He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com

This article was previously featured on GayToday.

 

 



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