By Ben Tavener, Contributing Reporter
SALVADOR, BRAZIL – Salvador, capital of Bahia state, has held its tenth gay pride parade with an estimated one million-strong crowd lining the streets and celebrating Brazil’s sexuality diversity. Thousands of members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community marched Salvador’s traditional Largo de Campo Grande Carnaval route to mark the milestone parade.
The parade aimed to draw attention to the “unacceptable” number of crimes being committed against the community. Soteropolitanos – people from Salvador – were greeted by a 130 foot-long rainbow flag at the head of the parade, with an array of banners throughout emblazoned with rallying messages calling on people to counter homophobia wherever they find it in society.
Patricia Nuno, delegada for Salvador Civil Police, was chosen to be madrinha (godmother) for the city’s milestone parade and was rousing the crowds from the top deck of the lead float in the ninety-degree heat. “It gives me enormous happiness to be associated with the fight against intolerance – a result of my work as a woman and as delegada,” she said.
The parade’s organizers, the Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB – Bahia Gay Group), said this year’s pride had a central message that they wanted to drive home: “Being gay isn’t strange: homophobia is strange.” The slogan was also used widely in the build-up to Sunday’s parade in TV and billboard campaigns.
The parade, more than just being the tenth the city has held to date, has been seen as particularly poignant after a raft of 112 new gay rights were brought into law earlier this year, including the right for gay couples to register their relationship officially as a união estável (stable union).
But Luiz Mott, founder of the GGB, says that although Brazil can be proud of the new legislation, there is no cause for complacency when it comes to the number of crimes committed against the LGBT community.
Speaking to The Rio Times, Mott said: “We are doing well: there is progress in terms of legislation and there has been more meaningful dialogue across the board, including in government. But let us not forget that Bahia still ranks first in Brazil in terms of gay-related murders, with 29 members of the LGBT community killed last year in Bahia alone, and 260 in Brazil.”
Figures for 2011 are not looking much better, he added, with fourteen homophobic murders confirmed in Bahia in the period up to September.
The activists say the true figure is much higher, and are calling for homophobic crimes to be classified as such. And while there are grounds for optimism in terms of how everyday people view members of the LBGT community, certain sections of the are still ardently anti-gay.
“The most intolerant groups are the fundamentalist, evangelical churches. The Catholic Church isn’t a major problem anymore, even though they were voicing their opposition to the recognition of stable unions for gay people,” Mott said to The Rio Times.
The GGB, founded in 1980, is Brazil’s longest-running LGBT group. The city’s first gay pride attracted some 15,000 people. Rio de Janeiro also hosts a large scale Gay Parade in Copacabana each year, and the last one in November 2010 reportedly gathered 800,000 to the world famous beach.