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social sciences

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In 1964, the Brazilian military staged a coup d'état and remained in power for twenty-one years. Particularly harsh repressive measures, including censorship and policing of the streets, occurred between 1969 and 1973, precisely when the international lesbian and gay movement burst out into the political arena in the United States and Europe. The political climate in Brazil at this time discouraged the organization of gay and lesbian groups.

Liberalization and the Fight against AIDS

In the late 1970s, during a slow-motion liberalization and a return to democratic rule, gay and lesbian organizations formed, and a group of intellectuals published Lampião da Esquina, the first national monthly targeting a gay and lesbian audience.

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Activists from some of the country's first groups played a crucial role in responding to the AIDS epidemic. Working to avoid a discourse in the war against AIDS, activists developed innovative safe-sex campaigns and convinced the Ministry of Health to embrace aggressive educational campaigns around condom use. Brazil has led the international movement to guarantee that poor and industrializing countries have access to cheap generic drugs to combat the disease.

Resurgence of the GLBTQ Movement

In 1995, Brazilian activists hosted the Seventeenth International Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) in Rio de Janeiro. This marked a resurgence of the glbtq movement throughout the country.

Stereotypical images of Brazil as the land of tropical delights obscure the fact that the country has one of the highest murder rates of gay men, transvestites, lesbians, and sex workers in the world, reaching one death every three days in the late 1990s. One of the first national campaigns of the movement was to document and denounce such violence and hate crimes.

Significantly, drag queens and transsexuals, two important components of the glbtq world, have begun to articulate a political role in this resurgence of activism.

In addition to Pride Parades in the nation's major cities, there has been an explosion in gay and lesbian culture and visibility, from film fests to Master's theses on glbtq topics at universities throughout the country. The media now also gives ample positive coverage to glbtq issues.

Whereas during most of the twentieth century, Brazilians could freely express sexual and gender differences only during the four days of Carnival celebrations, today they enjoy much more freedom the year round.

Despite continuing problems of violence and hate crimes, Brazil has entered the new century a much more gay-friendly place than it has been. The recent political successes of the Brazilian glbtq movement, and the increased visibility of glbtq people in all walks of life, have contributed to a new vibrancy and openness in Brazil.

[n 2004, Brazil first recognized same-sex "stable unions" as similar to common-law marriages in terms of rights and obligations. This recognition was greatly expanded on May 4, 2011, when Brazil's highest court, on a 10-0 vote, with one abstention, ruled that partners in a "stable" same-sex union had the same legal rights as a heterosexual married couple. "Discrimination generates hatred," wrote Justice Carlos Ayres Britto.

The ruling meant that Brazilian same-sex couples are entitled to retirement, inheritance, and health benefits on the same basis as married couples, as well as other rights, including the right to adopt children. The lawsuit that resulted in the decision was initiated by Rio state Governor Sergio Cabral and supported by President Dilma Rousseff and Attorney General Roberto Gurgel.

In response to the landmark ruling, judges throughout the country began converting civil unions into full-fledged marriages, following an existing procedure for converting common-law marriages into legal marriages.

Thus, throughout Brazil, same-sex couples may petition a court to recognize their "stable unions" as marriages.

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