rights

Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO – A viral social media campaign against rape and sexual harassment that spawned nationwide protests in Brazil is giving Brazil’s feminists fresh support, which they intend to use to change the way Brazil’s schoolchildren are taught women’s rights.

The surge in support was sparked by the shocking findings of a study published on 27 March by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) on the attitudes of Brazilians towards sexual harassment and rape.

The research found 65% of the 3,810 people surveyed agreed, partly or completely, with the statement: “Women who used clothes that show off their body deserve to be attacked.”

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It was a moment that many fans of Globo’s Amor à Vida novela had been urging producers to write for weeks, but whether scriptwriters bowed to public pressure or whether they’d planned it all along, Friday’s finale finally brought viewers a small piece of TV history in Brazil.

Félix and Niko share finally a kiss. Screenshot from Amor à Vida, Globo TV, first aired 31 January 2014.

It wasn’t Brazil’s first gay kiss ever, but Félix and Niko’s romantic embrace was the first on mainstream television and Rede Globo. Photo: TV Globo.

Two of the soap opera’s main characters, Félix and Niko – played by Mateus Solano and Thiago Fragoso – finally shared a much-anticipated kiss in the dying minutes of the novela’s grand finale.

With rumours rife and then apparently confirmed by an anonymous Globo source that said the kiss had been filmed, some Brazilians gathered specially to watch the episode.

Despite much “will they, won’t they” in the lead-up to the moment, Twitter suddenly erupted at the news, with #beijogay #feliko and #amoravida trending within seconds.

It wasn’t Brazil’s first gay kiss ever, but it was the first on primetime mainstream TV and on Rede Globo – Brazil’s biggest producer of novelas. On air since May 2013, Amor à Vida was the channel’s most-watched novela of the season. (Incidentally, the next novela das nove – 9pm soap, Em Família, will also have a central gay storyline.)

Fans praised the network, while rival media groups said the channel had bowed to pressure from viewers, who had been waging a #beijalogo (“kiss soon”) Twitter campaign in favour of the kiss for weeks prior to the event. Some even promised to protest the channel if the final episode did not feature the couple embracing.

LGBT campaigners, including Deputy Jean Wyllys, hailed the moment as ‘historic’, a step in the right direction for ‘equality’, and a victory for a country where homophobic crimes appear to be on the increase.

That said, acceptance for members of the LGBT community in Brazil has grown steadily in recent years, unsurprisingly particularly among younger generations, and the country does have legal provisions allowing both same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Indeed, São Paulo has even hosted the world’s biggest gay parade.

Amor à Vida campaign for gay kiss

“Félix can: throw a baby in the garbage; cause an accident; order a kidnapping; blackmail; steal from his own father; but kiss…” – An earlier online campaign for the couple to kiss appears to hint that Globo wouldn’t allow the scene.

But the presence of hardline religious leaders in senior political positions has seen waves of anti-gay rhetoric splashed across the media, particularly from televangelist Silas Malafaia and the now-infamous Marco Feliciano.

Attempts to bring in laws to criminalise homophobia have also so far proved unsuccessful due to pressure from conservative parliamentarians.

However, many said last night’s kiss was socially important, given the novela’s primetime 9pm slot. The last time viewers were promised such an event on the channel – back in 2005 in a novela called América – the scene eventually ended up on the cutting room floor, although it was leaked online.

Novelas have long proved vital to greater awareness of a range of social issues in Brazil, as in many other countries. But it’s fair to say that in Brazil they are particularly powerful, as many people’s lives revolve around the country’s bewildering array of novelas (you can sit down late in the afternoon and easily watch four or five of the addictive programmes).

The number of LGBT characters in mainstream programming has increased significantly in recent years – but producers have often been criticised for producing characters which are too “stereotypical” or “not normal enough”. And indeed, while other characters are often shown in passionate embraces, if not sizzling love-making, gay characters were often restricted to bland kisses on the cheek or flaccid hugs.

One novela, which featured a gay wedding, left viewers in a state of anticlimax when the big moment came: after pronouncing their vows, all the two men did was hug. It was even more stilted if you consider the many other characters who are allowed to flaunt their bodies and sex lives openly, even when it seemed completely desnecessário and irrelevant to the plot.

Félix and César make amends in the final seconds of Amor à Vida.

Félix and César make amends in the final seconds of Amor à Vida. Photo from Twitter/@AnaaraujoC__.

This was different though. The “Feliko” kiss hit the right note, and despite the hype online, didn’t feel forced or out of place. It was subtle, romantic, and gave a fitting end to the couple’s storyline.

But what was even more touching, in many ways, was the final scene – where Félix’s homophobic elderly father, César, played by Antonio Fagundes, seemingly finally comes round to the idea that love trumps hate.

The halting final frames show father and son holding hands on a beach at sunset, affirming how much they care for each other:

“Eu amo você” (I love you), says Félix.

César responds: “Eu também te amo, meu filho” (I love you too, my son).

São Paulo’s 17th Annual Parada Gay sent seventeen Carnival-style floats down the city’s central Avenida Paulista with the slogan “Para o armário, nunca mais!” – a defiant message warning that the LGBT community would “never go back in the closet”.

The show provided a reliably friendly atmosphere, with dance music, colourful costumes and plenty of glitter, feather boas and flesh on show.

Politicians attending the event included LGBT campaigner Deputy Jean Wyllys, Minister of Culture Marta Suplicy, and São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad.

Protesters made a fresh appeal for controversial government figure Marco Feliciano to quit his human rights role.

Click to see full image. Visit my Flickr page to view the full album.

UPDATE: A ruling by Brazil’s National Judiciary Council (CNJ) now means all notaries public (cartórios) throughout Brazil must “celebrate same-sex civil marriage”; those refusing to grant the marriage licences can be reported to the relevant state judiciary, who can take action against these individuals.

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The State of Rio High Court, the Justiça, last week approved so-called “direct authorisation” of same-sex civil marriages, making Rio one of eleven states which have approved gay marriage in Brazil, including São Paulo and the Federal District.

Cláudio Nascimento (left), coordinator of Rio Sem Homofobia (Rio Without Homophobia), seen here at his own civil marriage, said Rio should celebrate the decision. Photo courtesy Governo do RJ.

Cláudio Nascimento (left), coordinator of Rio Sem Homofobia, seen here at his own civil marriage in 2011, said Rio should celebrate the decision. Photo courtesy Governo do RJ.

However, there is uncertainty over whether judges in certain areas of Rio state, particularly in the capital itself, will give permission to such marriages.

Judge Valmir de Oliveira Silva, Magistrate General of Rio State High Court, who presided over the change, told Agência Brasil news agency that the revision was now in force, and that same-sex couples would no longer need to first have a stable union (união estável) to convert to a civil marriage, which is already possible.

While notaries public (cartórios) across the state should now allow same-sex couples to apply for civil marriages, the state will likely see divisions over which judges authorise them: in Rio city itself, judges have argued against such authorisations.

However judges in other districts, such as São Gonçalo, Petrópolis and Teresópolis, are said to be in favour, and notaries public would probably no longer have to submit each request to the judge, in line with general practice with heterosexual marriages. If no challenge to the marriage is made within fifteen days of publication, the couple is considered married.

Previous calls from Brazil’s Supreme Court for judges to allow stable unions to be converted into civil marriages have been disputed by Rio judges, citing the Constitution’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman; those in favour, however, point to clauses in the Constitution on equality before the law.

Cláudio Nascimento, coordinator of the state’s Rio Sem Homofobia (Rio Without Homophobia) program, described the approval as “a step forward that we should celebrate.” But others slammed the fact that marriage licences would depend on the local judge’s take on the law, meaning clients in one area of Rio would be successful, whereas others would be refused – simply based on address.

However, others have condemned the move – either from an anti-gay marriage point of view, or from more militant gay activists, such as deputy Jean Wyllys, who attacked the decision as one of “absurd inequality,” which had “missed a historic opportunity” to grant true equality to those members of the LGBT community who want to enter into a civil marriage.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.