Censorship: the intercession between authoritarianism and the universe of homosexualities

September 25, 2019

In order to protect the Brazilian family against “gender ideology”, President Jair Bolsonaro has been performing an efficient project to attack, censor and dismantle the National Film Agency (Ancine). Under the same pretext, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro ordered Municipal Secretariat inspectors to collect a book deemed “unfit for children” at the 2019 International Book Biennial.

As if the attack on cultural manifestations was not enough, education was not spared either: the São Paulo government ordered the removal of school materials that addressed the issue of sexual diversity. These events go back to dark times and leave no doubt: “We must acknowledge the censorship of the LGBTQI theme, identify the damage to the rights of sexual minorities and, above all, resist.”

Censorship and discrimination versus constitution: the protection of freedom of expression, plurality and the right to education.

The crusade against “gender ideology” (distorted way of interpreting gender identity) was already appearing in the 2018 presidential campaign. Under the guise of protecting traditional family models, President-elect Jair Bolsonaro promoted a campaign marked by the use of catch-phrases. calling for protection of conservative values.

ANCINE is just one of the bodies that suffers from the president’s conservative efforts – who has even claimed that he intends to extinguish the Agency if it fails to put in some cultural filter. The measure violates a fundamental right present in the 1988 Constitution, in its art. 5th, which determines to be “free the expression of intellectual, artistic, scientific and communication activity, regardless of censorship or license”.

At another point, he said he would “respect children in the classroom,” even recently stating that the Education Secretrary would veto gender discussions in public schools.

In line with federal conservatism, Governor João Doria’s move to censor handouts seems unreasonable as it deprives students of understanding concepts such as biological sex, gender identity and sexual orientation, and learn about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

These measures are in disagreement with the 1988 Constitution which establishes, in its article 6, education as a social right. The Public Prosecution Office of São Paulo (MPSP) began to investigate a possible violation of the right to education by the state government of SP, as it considers the justification for citted approach to the issue of gender identity would be improper.

Still, the MPSP questions the legal foundations that supported the action, as well as if the teachers had been consulted about the necessity and suitability of the conduct.

But the main feature of the above measures is that of attacking sexual minorities and the LGBTQI Universe (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Travesti, Transsexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual) thus affecting the right to plurality. Pluralism is a structuring principle of the legal order and imposes on the State an obligation not to discriminate and to act so that opinions and ways of life can coexist in harmony.

In this sense, non-dominant behaviors of sexual minorities should not be suppressed, individuals should be recognized and respected in their fundamental right to difference. And there is no better way that this can be achieved except by the action of the state.

Institutional responses show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel: Ancine Civil Servants Association issued an open letter defending the importance of the Agency, the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice granted an injunction preventing the city from seizing books at the Biennial or cancel the event license. Also, the president of the Supreme Federal Court, Dias Toffolli, banned book censorship in Rio de Janeiro stating that “The democratic regime presupposes an environment of free movement of ideas.”

Civil society seems ready to face censorship: Crivella’s censored book soon sold out at the 2019 Biennial.

The “authoritarian dynamic” yesterday and today: mechanism of neutralization of differences.

The acts of the Federal, State and Municipal Governments, today headed by conservative parties and their political exponents, refer us directly to the Brazilian military dictatorship.

In the period that began in 1964, the defense of the state and the defense of tradition and family merged into one authoritarian discourse, leading to censorship of ideas and manifestations seen as nontraditional or non-conservative. Sexual minorities were suppressed by the slogan “tradition, family and property”.

This slogan was a much broader ideal of the regime, which included appealing to order, tradition and fighting anything that threatened these factors: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, among others. (GREEN; QUINALHA, 2014, p. 276)

During the Brazilian civil-military dictatorship, the LTGBTQI community was hit hard by “office purges, persecution of transvestites – framed in vagrancy or disturbance of public order – censorship of the press, arts and other forms of expression that symbolized sexualities.” (GREEN; QUINALHA, 2014, p. 248-249).

Recent and dictatorial mechanisms of neutralizing differences can be thought of in the light of Karen Stenner’s “authoritarian dynamic“, which concerns the interaction between a predisposition to authoritarianism and normative threat conditions. For the author, the authoritarian is the one who rejects difference / plurality, seeks greater unity and consensus.

Within this dynamic of us vs. them, the authoritarian is willing to accept government intrusion into private life – even the use of coercion – especially if it reinforces his own notions of morality, politics, and race.

Finally, the reported censorship episodes allow us to reflect on an authoritarian dynamic, since the events lead us to a moment of repression that is not unheard of. The conservative offensive attempting to impose a single concept of family and sexuality, while avoiding contestation and creativity – in short, seeking to neutralize differences even at the cost of fundamental guarantees – must be fought by democratic institutions and society at large.

Despite censorship, exile, and repression during the Brazilian civil-military dictatorship, the arts were a potent space for resistance and contestation to the regime. Similarly, responses from the civil and institutional population show that there is no longer room for the suppression of diversity.

By Mariana Tormin Tanos Lopes [1] e Nathalia Brito Carvalho [2] 

Read more here:

On “authoritarian dynamic” – https://www.karenstenner.com/

Removal of HQ from stores violates Rule of Law – https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/ilustrada/2019/09/recolhimento-de-hq-viola-o-estado-de-direito.shtml


[1] Mestranda do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Direito da UFMG. Pesquisadora do Centro de Estudos sobre Justiça de Transição (CJT/UFMG).

[2] Doutoranda do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Direito da UFMG. Pesquisadora do Centro de Estudos sobre Justiça de Transição (CJT/UFMG).