SPW heard the opinion of some Brazilian LGBT activists
On October 14th 2009, President Lula signed decree no 6.980, which establishes a new structure within the Special Secretary on Human Rights (SEDH): the General Coordination for the Promotion of LGBT Rights (which replaces the Brazil without Homophobia Program). The General Coordination is located within the Department for the Promotion of Human Rights, which was recently established under the Secretary for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. The same decree also establishes the National Council against Discrimination and for the Promotion of LGBT Rights, which will include both government and civil society organizations.
Activist Fernanda Benvenutty, President and Founder of the Transgender Association of Paraíba (Astrapa) and Vice-president of the National Transgender Articulation (Antra), has expressed her support for the new measure. While recognizing that policy processes take a long time, she says: “No public policy happens as result of magic. It takes time, and this is an important step ahead.” According to Benvenutty, the LGBT Coordination is well situated within SEDH’s structure and will allow LGBT issues to be understood through a human rights framework.
Marinalva Santana from Teresina, Piauí, a lesbian activist and President of the LGBT group Matizes, expects the Coordination to go beyond ‘affirmative action’ and to effectively implement public policies that enhance LGBT citizenship. She also thinks it is important to ensure that the new structure does not simply become a means of providing high-level positions to the LGBT movement’s leaders.
Deco Ribeiro, Founder of E-Jovem, an LGBT youth network active in various Brazilian states, is not surprised by the creation of either the Coordination or the Council. According to Ribeiro, anyone who closely follows the LGBT movement could have predicted the establishment of these bodies even before the National LGBT Conference of 2008. The creation of participatory spaces and structures, he explains, is characteristic of the Lula Administration. He adds: “I do think it is essential to legitimate the debates held during the National LGBT Conference and to effectively articulate the proposals adopted in the National LGBT Plan, and the recent measure confers legitimacy to the LGBT agenda.”
Benvenutty is confident that the new Coordination is a major political gain and that it will become a core governmental space for the construction and implementation of LGBT policies. “These new policy decision structures have become real because the government and the president is really open to all kinds of people, demands and issues,” she says. Santana, though a bit more skeptical about concrete gains that may result from the new policy body, expresses her hopes: “Oxalá* the Coordination will systematically provide greater visibility to the debates and demands related to sexual diversity.”
* Popular Afro-originated, Brazilian term for “Let’s hope.”