Brazil: Protest Homophobic Attack Against A City Councilor

SUMMARY

Sonia Sampaio, a city councilor in Mogi das Cruzes, Sao Paulo, who denounced the possible existence of corrupt dealings involving her city's transportation system, faces a request for revocation of her mandate by other councilors. The main accusation in the request is her being a lesbian.

ACTION

IGLHRC and the local lesbian organization Coletivo de Feministas Lesbicas ask for letters to the Mogi das Cruzes City Council, condemning the terms in which the request against Ms. Sampaio was made and demanding an statement from the Council in that same sense.

Please email today to:

Mr. Antonio Cuco Pereira
President
Câmara Municipal de Mogi das Cruzes:
cmmc@cmmc.com.br

and please send a copy to

Coletivo de Feministas Lesbicas
cfl@canbras.net

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Sir,

I/We have learnt that city councilor Sonia Sampaio is facing a request for revocation of her term, for having denounced the possible existence of corrupt dealings in Mogi das Cruzes city transportation system.

I/We find that the terms in which such request has been expressed constitute a violation of Ms. Sampaio's human rights and a disrespect to her human dignity.

As you well know, the request calls Ms. Sampaio an "adept to lesbianism" and then engages in a lengthy explanation of the statistical prevalence of lesbianism among women, its "enabling factors," the appearance of lesbians and even their sexual practices - all matters completely unrelated to the issue in discussion (her performance as city councilor). It is hard not to think of this as motivated by discrimination: a bigoted attempt to discredit Ms. Sampaio.

Discrimination and attacks against a citizen's private life violate provisions in Article 3 and 5 of the Brazilian Constitution (1988). And in the state of Sao Paulo they even constitute a crime, as stated by Law 10.948 (November 2001) that penalizes any "discriminatory manifestation against homosexual, bisexual or transgender citizens," including those of "moral, ethical, philosophical or psychological" nature. The same principles of non-discrimination and respect for private life are consecrated by international human rights treaties that Brazil has ratified, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Interamerican Human Rights Convention.

I/we urge you to:

  • Issue an statement condemning the discriminatory terms in which the request against Ms. Sampaio has been formulated.
  • Take all necessary steps to insure that no prejudice will instigate actions or verbal expressions against Ms. Sampaio or any other city councilor in the future.

Sincerely,

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

On February 27, 2002, town councilor Sonia Sampaio (Partido Verde - Mog das Cruzes, SP, Brazil) denounced the town Secretary of Transportation, José Odair Pereira Diniz, the Mayor and another councilor for presumed corruption in the handling of the city transportation service. Ms. Sampaio exhibited documentation in support of her complaints and enlisted the support of a portion of the city's transportation unions. Police have begun an investigation into her allegations.

On March 12, another sector of the city's transportation unions submitted a request for revocation of Ms. Sampaio's term.

The requests starts by saying: "We request revocation of city councilor Sonia Sampaio, known by the nickname of "Ovo con Perna" (egg with legs), an adept to lesbianism, for lack of decorum in her public behavior and acting in such a way that in incompatible with the dignity of Mogi das Cruzes City Council."

And then it describes what lesbianism is: " In spite of widely differing statistics it would be acceptable to estimate that less than 5% of women had some kind of lesbian experience involving orgasm. Out of the cities such percentage is probably lower because lesbianism is favored, in part, by economic independence, more accessible to women in urban centers and in industrialized countries. Even though an small percentage of lesbians shows masculine physical features, or manners and clothes typically masculine or androgynous, a wide majority of them is undistinguishable from heterosexuals as far as their appearance is concerned."

And then it describes how "a lesbian gives orgasms to another" through "cunilingua, mutual masturbation -sometimes employing artifacts- and tribadism, besides other complementary ways of manual and oral stimulation."

The lesbian organization Coletivo de Feministas Lesbicas has also submitted a complaint before the Ethical Tribunal affiliated with the Brazilian Lawyers' Organization (Organizaçao dos Advogados do Brasil) against Delmiro Gouveia, the lawyer that drafted the request. Coletivo also runs the Felipa de Souza Project providing legal assistance to lesbians since 1996 (her email address can be found in the Action section)

In The Law

State Law 10.948 penalizes "discriminatory acts and attempts against homosexual, bisexual or transgender citizens" (Article 1). Public officers are specifically included as liable for this acts (Article 3).

In the Brazilian Constitution, Article 3 states as a "fundamental aim" of the Brazilian Republic to "promote the well-being of all, without prejudices based on origin, race, sex, color, ideas or any other form of discrimination." And Article 5 lists the rights protected for Brazilians and foreign residents, mentioning the right to "inviolability of the private life" (5.10).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 2 and 26) and the Interamerican Human Rights Convention (Article 1.1) contain clear provisions against discrimination.

The right to be free from "arbitrary interference with (one's) privacy" is protected by the UDHR (Article 12), ICCPR (Article 17) and IHRC (Article 11.2).

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