Brazil already has some of the world’s biggest and most vibrant gay groups, with millions of people taking to the streets all across this South American nation to celebrate their sexual identity in gay pride marches.
Now, in a move blasted as discriminatory by some and farcical by others, councilors in Brazil’s largest city São Paulo have voted to introduce a rival "Heterosexual Pride Day."
The man behind the move, Carlos Apolinário of the right-wing Democrats Party, said he didn’t want a parade to celebrate heterosexuality on the third Sunday of December, the day chosen to mark the occasion. He did, however, feel compelled to make a symbolic move to shore up Brazil’s eroding “morals."
Mr. Apolinário, who has the support of Brazil’s powerful Protestant church lobby, said, “The creation of Heterosexual Day does not symbolize a struggle against gays but against what I believe are excesses and privileges.”
Opponents shot back saying the move was nothing short of divisive homophobia.
“This project creates a separate category and enhances the possibility of discrimination and prejudice,” said Ítalo Cardoso of the rival Workers’ Party. “I hope that the day soon arrives when we don’t need more laws to defend gay rights.”
The bill must be approved by Mayor Gilberto Kassab in order to become law, but Mr. Kassab has not said if he will approve it or not.
While São Paulo is home to a vibrant gay scene, homophobia is a constant concern. The legislation comes just a few weeks after a conservative congressman in the capital Brasilia courted controversy by apparently calling blacks promiscuous, and then declaring himself proud to be prejudiced against gays. And last month a group of youths attacked and maimed a father they thought was gay because he hugged his teenage son.
A homosexual is killed every 36 hours in Brazil, according to the Gay Group of Bahia, Brazil’s oldest homosexual rights organization. The number of gays killed has risen 113 percent over the last five years, the group said.
The bill also comes as São Paulo struggles to build on advances of the past decade. Murder rates, though still high, have plummeted and a series of progressive actions were introduced that made the often gray city a brighter place to live.
But residents can justifiably ask why city councilors are spending time on "Heterosexual Pride" measures, rather than attacking the city’s long documented problems.
The biggest metropolis in the southern hemisphere with more than 20 million people, São Paulo suffers from chronic air and noise pollution, has some of the world’s most notorious traffic jams, and is "home" to thousands of street people who roam the often freezing city center.
It has inadequate rail, metro, and road links; faces devastating floods each year due to the lack of investment in infrastructure; and is in danger of missing out on the 2014 World Cup because its preparations are so far behind schedule.