“I became scared, this was their goal”: efforts to ban gender and sexuality education in Brazil

Case Studies & Research
Human Rights Watch
77 p.

Since around 2014, lawmakers at the federal, state, and municipal levels in Brazil have introduced over 200 legislative proposals prohibiting gender and sexuality education in schools under the guise of protecting children and adolescents from “gender ideology” and “indoctrination". These proposals and their rationale have been the subject of intense political and social debate in Brazil. “I Became Scared, This Was Their Goal” analyzes these bills and laws, as well as the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro’s full political embrace of them. The report is based on 56 interviews with education experts and public school teachers, all of whom voiced apprehension about addressing gender and sexuality in the classroom due to political efforts to discredit such material. Some have been harassed by elected officials and community members for doing so, and have even had administrative proceedings opened against them. The Supreme Court has served as an important check on such legislative proposals, even as the Bolsonaro administration has increasingly attacked the court, with the apparent aim of intimidating it, and threatened and insulted its justices. In 2020, the Supreme Court issued landmark rulings striking down eight of these laws on the grounds they violated the rights to equality, non-discrimination, and education. Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch has confirmed that at least 20 laws directly or indirectly banning gender and sexuality education remain in force in Brazil. Related bills are also pending in the federal, state, and municipal legislatures, some of which continue to propose such bills. Human Rights Watch calls on Brazilian authorities to take immediate steps to uphold the right to comprehensive sexuality education by adhering to existing Brazilian law, Supreme Court rulings, and international human rights law and ceasing to politicize gender and sexuality education as a wedge issue to consolidate support and attack political opponents.

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