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Mayoral candidate for Brazil’s São Paulo slammed for anti-gay comments

José Serra, a candidate for the mayor of São Paulo, attacked his main opponent, Fernando Haddad, for previously supporting an anti-homophobic educational program which he labelled as ‘absurd’ and ‘inappropriate’
José Serra, a candidate for the mayor of São Paulo, has been criticized for using homophobic remarks in an attempt to discredit his opponent, Fernando Haddad

Candidate Serra (of the Social Democratic Party - PDSB) criticized candidate Haddad (of the Brazilian Labour party - PT) for his role, as the former Brazilian federal minister of education, to introduce an educational program to combat homophobia.

Serra stated last week: ‘Fernando Hadad did a tremendous mess with the "kit gay". He’s done such a bad job that Dilma [Brazil’s president] vetoed it. He spent R$ 800,000 ($395,000 €303,000) and still has not explained how this this will be returned back to government coffers.’

He later went on to call the educational program as an ‘absurd’ ‘doctrine’ and ‘inappropriate for children’.

Last year (2011) the Brazilian ministry of education, under the leadership of Fernando Hadad, now candidate for the mayor of São Paulo, produced educational material, called ‘School Without Homophobia’, as a program to be used in the country’s educational system in order to combat homophobia.

After immense pressure and from the evangelical lobby, which labelled the education program as a ‘kit gay’ - falsely alleging that schools will be instructed to ‘teach children to be gay’, the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff had it cancelled.

Haddad, rebuffed Serra's attack as an attempt to pander to conservative elements and use, indirectly, homophobia as a political weapon: 'he indirectly does [stimulate prejudice], by disinformation … which creates a cloud of uncertainty that plays into prejudice’.

Both candidates promise to combat homophobia in their campaigns, Serra, however, refused to comment when asked by a TV reporter on the issue, saying ‘I won’t respond, check my campaign, it’s there’.

Serra’s campaign talks about ‘expanding the public policy of inclusion and citizenship and protection against all forms of prejudice focused on respecting diversity and combating homophobic violence.’

Haddad's campaign promises a municipal plan to combat homophobia, with reference centers throughout the city, however it does not specify how much money will be invested.

The program to combat homophobia in the city of São Paulo is executed by the Directory of Sexual Diversity Issues (CADS), was originally created by Serra in 2005 and started to operate in 2008.

Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian LGBT Association (ABGLT) wrote an open letter to Serra asking him to reconsider his criticism, citing several academic research projects who show how homophobia in schools affect student’s self-esteem and well being, and even citing from his own experience.

Reis said: ‘I was very saddened by the misuse of the debate on public policies to combat homophobia as an electoral weapon, referring to the education project “School Without Homophobia” as “kit gay”.

‘I would like to ask Serra that that LGBT population will not be used to generate polemics during the electoral campaign, or through any other period.’

On Saturday (20 October) former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and leading politician of the PSDB party voiced similar criticism of Serra’s use of the word ‘kit gay’ as an attempt to ‘flirt’ with 'conservative elements'.

Recently, the municipality of São Paulo has cut more than half the budget of its programme to combat homophobia, which ironically was founded in 2005 by Serra.

According to official figures of the municipality the budget for the programme to combat homophobia was revised down from R$ 330,000 ($162,800  €125,000) to R$ 262,000 ($130,000  €99,200), by the current municipal government which support the candidacy of Serra. 

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