#VoteLGBT: Campaign For LGBT Political Representation in Brazil

A group of social activists in Brazil, concerned with how the outcome of the upcoming nationwide elections would impact on the LGBT community, launched a nonpartisan campaign in order to increase the pro-LGBT representation within political parties and Brazilian legislature.

The #VoteLGBT campaign is mapping all candidates running for the Senate, the Lower House and the Legislative houses of each of the 27 states in Brazil who advocate civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans persons. “In Brazil, political institutions rarely represent the diversity of the country’s population. They are usually taken over by individuals who are committed to maintaining the privileges of a certain portion of society, denying or ignoring the rights of minorities, and the elections are the moment we can change that,” says Gui Mohallem, one of the campaign coordinators.

The list of candidates can be found on the campaign website and on their Facebook page where Brazilian voters can also get to know more about the candidates’ proposals. The website was thought as a means to spread and build pro-LGBT advocacy in Brazil, helping to empower pro-LGBT candidates who do not receive enough funds from their parties. “It’s a service, a tool that helps constituents chose candidates who are committed to public policies for the LGBT community” says Mohallem.

A Community At Risk

The LGBT community in Brazil lives a daunting and alarming situation. Despite its worldwide fame as a tropical paradise of sexual freedom, Brazil holds a shocking record: it is the number one country in the world ranking of murders of lesbians, gays, and trans persons. This harsh reality has not moved Brazilian legislators, who have refrained from approving laws to ensure rights and protection to LGBT persons.

The elections of October 5th thus represent a moment of hope and apprehension for LGBT persons in the country. LGBT-phobic religious fundamentalists are an active lobby within the Brazilian Congress: in 2005 the Evangelical Parliamentary Front had 36 representatives; in 2010, they were 73. The result is sadly well-known in Brazil: LGBT-phobic legislators took control of the Commission on Human Rights and Minorities, the bill for “Gay Cure” was nearly put to vote at the Lower House, and the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was pressured into vetoing teaching materials aimed at preventing homophobia in public schools. In 2014, there was a 47% increase in the number of legislative candidates who self-define as “Pastor”, in comparison to the last 2010 legislative elections. On September 28th, a presidential candidate made unacceptable homophobic remarks on national television during the presidential debate, claiming that homosexuals “need psychological care” and were better kept “well away from [the rest of] us”.

“The campaign #VoteLGBT hopes to increase representation for the LGBT community and allies firstly within the political parties. Possibly within the legislature, so that the plurality of voices can curb the religious fundamentalist backlash. We don’t know if we’re going to make it, we don’t even know whether our efforts will help elect somebody. But even if it doesn’t, we’ll be watching the next legislature very closely so that we can help constituents, candidates and LGBT advocacy groups, so that we can keep pressuring the government, and so that we can build an even stronger campaign in four years, for the next elections”, says Giovana Bonamim, another campaign coordinator.

The campaign has had wide diffusion through social networks and has resonated among many audiences, including heterosexual allies. “We’ve been getting lots of positive responses, from the constituents and from the candidates as well. Many constituents are saying that through our website they were able to find candidates who can represent them. And many candidates are thankful, for they are glad to have an additional platform to publicize their proposals,” says Bonamim. #VoteLGBT has received endorsements from many renowned personalities in the cultural and political spheres within the country. “It fills me with hope to realize that we are not the minority, that the people who want to live in a country free from violence and discrimination are the majority,” celebrates Mohallen.