Influence of Authoritarian Government on LGBTQ in Brazil

By Alinne Lopes Gomes

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Brazil’s history and the influence authoritarian governments and military dictatorships had on LGBTQ+ matters.

The military period can be traced back as one of the main reasons why LGBT rights and debates over important topics regarding sexual diversity are late in the country.”
Homosexuality was decriminalized only after the country’s Independence in 1822, leaving the colony status, with the advent of the new Penal Code in 1830. It wasn’t until 1889 that it acquired the nature of Republic, built by the slow dismantlement of the slavery economic and social standing. Laws were created to cut ties with slave trade, yet still leaving heavy marks of social and economic instability.
Practically, the social problems and the marginalization of sexual diversity did not suffer a lot of change after the instauration of the Republic. The end of the Empire left Brazil with a delicate economy and a barely functional political system. The country was suddenly faced with masses of newly freed people who were shut down from work and housing, having to gather themselves in a life of misery and distance from the cities. 
The problematic of a society that had just abolished slavery led to public policies and social dogmas that had a racist and prejudiced character. The government started to uphold to the people Hygienist policies. The towns were shaped using European cities as models and the lesser favored classes were left behind, forming precarious communities around the urban centers.
It was in this period that the social inequality linked to ethnical and racial conflicts started to take the modern appearance. Brazil currently suffers from an economic abyss that affects mostly poor and black families from communities with high social vulnerability, heritage from slave trade and the policies that followed its abolishment.
The 19th century was also marked by a surge of interest in the medical and biological aspects of normality and traditional sexual behavior. It was a symbol to the growing bourgeois class and the transformation of the economic and social system, represented by the shaping of a sense of normality to control any deviation of this new structure. Following European theories on sexuality, Brazil’s academics started to center their research around the idea that homosexuality was a clinical abnormality, meaning there was a possibility for a cure.
The laws that followed this period were not intended to punish those who suffered from deviations, but to push them back into the normal behavior. Despite the hardening environment, sexual diversity didn’t disappear from public knowledge. Instead, private clubs and underground meeting spaces were formed. The silence in which the LGBT community lived through this age made necessary the construction of networks and a support system for its members. 
Dr. Adailson Moreira, PHD in Psychology and teacher at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, writes about the phenomena of establishing patterns of normality and pathology, using medicine and psychological imperatives to justify the segregation of a group of people. In his paper, entitled “Homosexuality in the Nineteenth Century” (2012), he constructs a timeline for social acceptability of sexual diversity and links it to the medical and mental health evolution through the centuries. 
During the 20th century, the LGBT movement grew in Brazil and organized around the search for rights, equality and normative protection against institutional prejudice. Although homosexuality had not been considered a crime since 1830, the country suffered a regression when, in 1964, Military forces took over government, installing a dictatorship regime. Political forces started to form alliances to depose democratically elected president, João Goulart. 
Brazil had five military presidents from 1964 to 1985, when the indirect election of Tancredo Neves, the first civilian president in over two decades, put an end to the military regime. The years the country was governed by high names from the armed forces were painted by persecution of political opponents, disappearances, restrictions to rights and freedom of speech, murders, torture, assaults and human rights violations. 
The LGBT community suffered the consequences of the instability and fear this period represented to civil alliances. In 1969, it was created the "Summary Investigation Committee", specially made to identify and remove from office Itamaraty officials who were considered morally unstable; 44 people were removed from the Diplomacy organ, seven of them under homosexuality allegations. The regime also represented censorship of the liberal arts and cultural manifestations which were considered inflammatory or sexually referenced; it resulted in the exile of several artists.
The changes led to the start of the movement that formed LGBT civil organizations and the fortification of groups within the community, working with direct activism without having explicit support from left groups who fought the regime. The social and political problems affecting the working class took precedent over the ones considered to be exclusive of a minor segment of society.  
In 1978, the group “Somos” (literal translation: we are) was founded, the first organized group to stand for LGBT reform. The first Pride March to take place in São Paulo happened in 1980 after the constant abuse by the police against the community and the first lesbian group was also created in the same year, integrated directly with “Somos”. The first group to organize in a national level was the Brazilian Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transgender (ABGLT) in 1995. 
LGBT legislation started to acquire shape in 1995, when, then Congresswoman Marta Suplicy, introduced to the Congress a bill that guaranteed civil union to couples of the same gender. The bill is still stuck in Congress and hasn’t been visited since 2007. Progress in LGBT subjects happen at a bigger rate on the Judiciary branch. Resolutions and decisions from the Supreme Court offers alternatives and unstable guarantees that can be reversed by a change in seat.  






This article is extracted from the Research paper titled 'LGBT Policies and Overall Safety in Brazil'  in Chapter 4 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation 'Safety First for Girls'.








The Safety Report by SAFIGI is a two-fold Open research on 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The first part of the Safety Report is a Research Paper. The second part is a detailed Data Analysis. 

The Safety Report Research paper is titled: 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The paper starts with an abstract before focusing on subjects in the key regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A total of 7 Research papers make up the safety Report (sans the introduction and conclusion), including:


  1. The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
  2. Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
  3. Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
  4. Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
  5. LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
  6. Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177)  by Steffica Warwick.
  7. America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.


SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a volunteer-based and youth led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented the Safety Report in order to understand the multifaceted concept of safety and how it applies to the female gender in diverse settings. And therefore, further prove safety is intrinsic, and that vices in society stem from an intimate level of the human being before its manifestation. This way, when we create safety solutions, whether it be in a developing nation, conflict zone, refugee camp, or patriarchal society, the problem is resolved from a deeply rooted cause. Such that, we treat the disease itself and not mere symptoms.

This study is as a result of collaborative effort pursued in the spirit of volunteerism via UN Online Volunteers.

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