Bolsonaro regime to remove Brazilian textbook references to feminism and homosexuality

Far-right leader once declared 'I'm homophobic, with pride'

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 12 February 2019 14:15
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Jair Bolsonaro speaks after winning Brazil presidential elections

Brazil's president and his senior officials have vowed to revise school textbooks to remove references to feminism, homosexuality and violence against women.

Jair Bolsonaro has also said he wants the military to take over some public schools, as part of what teachers believe is a "nonsensical" approach to education reform.

“One of the goals to get Brazil out of the worst positions in international education rankings is to combat the Marxist rubbish that has spread in educational institutions,” Mr Bolsonaro tweeted on the eve of his inauguration last month.

Mr Bolsonaro, who once declared “I’m homophobic, with pride”, has further pledged to review the content of the country’s national high school exam to remove questions on gender or LGBT movements.

He made the announcement in a YouTube video after seeing a question from last year’s exam on a “secret dialect used by gays and transvestites”, called Pajuba, which mixes Portuguese and West African languages. It is mostly used in Afro-Brazilian religions but has also been adopted by the Brazilian LGBT community.

“Don’t worry, there won’t be any more questions like this,” the far-right leader said.

After Mr Bolsonaro took office on 1 January, the education ministry dismantled its diversity department and published a new set of guidelines for textbook publishers that eliminated references to topics such as violence against women and sexism.

Following an outpouring of criticism, officials backtracked on the revised texts. But education minister Ricardo Velez Rodriguez nonetheless vowed in his inaugural speech to end the “aggressive promotion of the gender ideology”.

He has also said he wanted to “enter the education ministry with a flamethrower to remove Paulo Freire”, one of Brazil’s most famous educators whose ideas have had worldwide influence.

Mr Bolsonaro and other conservatives have said Freire’s legacy in schools turns students into “political militants”. Conservatives believe the late socialist intellectual's teaching methods encourage students to challenge traditional values such as family and the church.

“We are still waiting to see how, in practice, all this is going to turn out,” said Nilton Brandao, president of one of Brazil’s largest teachers’ unions, PROIFES Federacao. “Right now, it does not make any sense.”

The far-right president quickly issued an executive order to remove the concerns of the LGBT community from consideration by the country’s new human rights ministry.

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He has also strongly criticised what he calls “gender-based ideology”, calling it a threat to Brazil’s Christian values.

Additional reporting by AP

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