Outing Brazil's military secrets
by Conor Foley
Monday 16 June 2008
Despite the fact that their country plays host to the largest pride festival in the world, gay soldiers in Brazil face humiliating discrimination The imprisonment of a gay soldier in the Brazilian army has sparked a nationwide debate about sexuality and discrimination in the world's largest Catholic country.
Army sergeant Laci Marinho de Araújo, revealed that he was gay in an interview with a national news magazine, Epoca, which featured the story on its front page. He and his partner, sergeant Alcântara de Figueiredo, have maintained a serious relationship since 1997 and have lived together for most of that time. They spoke about the prejudices against gay people in the Brazilian armed forces and how they had been forced to conceal their relationship from official view.
Last week de Araújo was arrested after giving a television interview. Army police dramatically surrounded the TV station while the interview was in progress and Araújo pleaded with the TV show hostess for help saying that he believed his life was in danger. He said that since admitting to being gay he has suffered a number of personal attacks and has also had to seek medical treatment for depression.
The sergeant suffers from a variety of health problems, including multiple sclerosis, for which he is also receiving treatment. This has meant that he has been absent from his unit for some time and he was arrested for desertion when he left the TV studio. He was taken from Sao Paulo to the capital Brasilia, where he is now being held in military custody. His partner Figueiredo says that he has been denied access to him and fears that he has been beaten up and tortured.
The Brazilian military penal code defines the "practice of homosexual acts in places subject to military administration" a crime, punishable by up to a year's imprisonment. Although Araújo has been charged with desertion instead, a variety of Brazilian human rights and lesbian and gay groups accuse the army of persecuting him on the basis of his sexuality.
On Thursday the Sao Paulo state council of human rights said that it has proof that de Araújo was under medical care at the time of his supposed desertion. It is preparing to take a case to the supreme court declaring the parts of the military code which discriminate against homosexuality to be unconstitutional. It has also asked President Lula to intervene in support of its case.
On Tuesday Brazil's Attorney General, José Antônio Dias Toffoli, officially supported a move by the governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, to grant official recognition to civil unions between same-sex couples, which will give them the same rights to social benefits such as healthcare as heterosexual couples. This means that the action could set a precedent for the effective legalisation of same-sex civil unions throughout Brazil.
The two legal cases come in the same week as Brazil held its first national gay rights conference – a move hailed by President Lula as historic – and shortly after the Sao Paulo lesbian and gay pride festival, which is the largest in the world.
This is a continuation of stories on F6 concerning Gays In The Military and the absurdity of Don't Ask Don't Tell. You may cross over to the original post regarding this story and also view our Links Page for more information and resources.
17 June 2008
Outing Brazil's military secrets