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Legal Fights on "Gender Ideology" in Schools Rage Across Brazil

  • Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro poses for a photograph with all male governors-elect in Brasilia, Brazil Nov. 14, 2018.

    Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro poses for a photograph with all male governors-elect in Brasilia, Brazil Nov. 14, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 November 2018

Local laws that are attempting to cleanse schools of "Marxist ideologies that promote homosexuality" could become a reality in Brazil.

State courts and the Supreme Federal Court (STF) of Brazil are challenging local laws that ban “gender ideology” from education, a proposal that is part of Jair Bolsonaro’s “Schools Without Party” bill.


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In 2018, tribunals in at least five states suspended municipal laws that banned teachers from teaching “gender ideology,” aiming for a more “neutral” education. Also, the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) brought seven complaints to the STF against municipal governments for similar reasons. The STF will soon have to address the issue.

The “Escola Sem Partido” is a bill coordinated by lawyer Miguel Naguib and supported by several right-wing parties and organizations, including Bolsonar’s Social Liberal Party (PSL). Despite its name suggesting an education that has no ideology, it’s actually based on dictatorship-era values and aims to reinstate “morality and civility” into the education programs, banning all “gender ideology” that they interpret to be “attacking the traditional family model” and “promoting homosexuality and sexual precocity” among students.

According to the bill’s description, an “organized army of militants dressed up as professors prevail on academic freedom … impose their own worldview, pretending to transmit their students a ‘critical view’ of reality.”

The bill’s supporters argue that the “gender ideology” indoctrination is not included in the constitution and violates the right to parents to educate their children as they please.

The project is also severely critical of the teachings of Paulo Freire, a Marxist-influenced philosopher of Brazilian origin who was one of the main advocates and most respected authors of critical pedagogy.

Naguib has admitted that the movement was inspired by the U.S. far-right movement 'No Indoctrination,' sharing similar views.

Bolsonaro and his transition team are trying to use the same political platform to eradicate “Marxism indoctrination,” which they relate with the Workers’ Party (PT). Bolsonaro’s political program doesn’t include the “Escola Sem Partido” name in it, but his educational policies are based on it.

“More mathematics, sciences and Portuguese, without indoctrination of sexual precocity,” is one of Bolsonaro’s campaign slogans.


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Even though the bill is being discussed by a special commission of the House of Representatives, Bolsonaro’s supporters, including his son and re-elected federal representative Eduardo Bolsonaro, hope the bill will finally be a reality when the president-elect takes office in 2019 and the house becomes more conservative.

But current provisional decisions by the STF and state courts are challenging the bill and municipal laws inspired by the movement, arguing the constitution guarantees equality among people and the freedom of teaching and learning.

In Minas Gerais, the state court decided that such a restriction represents censorship, as it bans “any discussion, related or not, to the issue, even in a broad and generic manner,” as well as deciding over the education material.

The PGR also argued that speaking about a “gender ideology” is misleading, as it’s a term used negatively and intended to ban discussions related to sexuality and any other lived realities different from heteronormativity. The PGR has filed actions in Novo Gama, Cascavel, Paranagua, Blumenau, Tubarao, Ipatinga and Palmas for similar reasons. These legal claims are not related to state courts and are only filed at the STF.

In September, Court Justice of Sao Paulo declared a law in Taquaritinga unconstitutional that “prohibits pedagogical activities that reproduce the concept of gender ideology,” defined as the “ideology according to which the two sexes, masculine and feminine, as considered social constructions.” The court rejected it on grounds of the state constitution, which states that no one can be discriminated against for philosophical, political or religious convictions.

Critics of the bill and local laws inspired by it argue that municipalities don’t have the ability to legislate on educational matters, a right that belongs to the federal government, and that it effectively violates academic freedom and discriminates against the LGBT community. Also, by prohibiting the words “gender” and “sexual orientation” at schools, such as bill would allow for political persecution in the academia.

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