Gay Pride parade targets Brazil's religious conservatives

Hundreds of thousands assembled Sunday in Sao Paulo for one of the world's most important Gay Pride parades, spurred by concern that religious conservatives are taking aim at hard-won LGBT rights.

Sao Paulo's 21st Gay Pride Parade, whose theme is "Secular State", is spurred  in part this year by concerns that reglious conservatives are trying to reverse gay rights
Sao Paulo's 21st Gay Pride Parade, whose theme is "Secular State", is spurred in part this year by concerns that reglious conservatives are trying to reverse gay rights (AFP)

Hundreds of thousands assembled Sunday in Sao Paulo for one of the world's most important Gay Pride parades, spurred by concern that religious conservatives are taking aim at hard-won LGBT rights.

Organizers were aiming for up to three million participants on Paulista Avenue, an iconic part of the city lined with skyscrapers was already packed before the parade officially started at 1600 GMT.

"Whatever our beliefs, no religion is law. All for a secular state," was the slogan of the parade's 21st edition.

Claudia Santos Garcia, director of the march, said: "Our main enemies today are the religious fundamentalists seeking to end the rights we already gained."

The fight for equality paid off in Brazil in the last decade. Surgeries for sex change in public hospitals, child adoption by same-gender couples, civil marriage and maternity leave for parents have been gained.

However, a draft law to class homophobia as a crime has been awaited for years in the legislature.

Catholic Brazil is also one of the world's countries worst affected by homophobic violence, with 340 murders in 2016 -- one roughly every 25 hours.

And in April, Brazil's football association was fined because of its supporters' chanting of homophobic slogans during World Cup qualifying.

Jair Bolsonaro, a rising right-wing member of Brazil's Congress who is rumored as a possible future candidate for the country's presidency, is among politicians with hard anti-LGBT beliefs.

Sunday's parade, however, still represents a celebration of gay rights. The event is also a major source of income for Sao Paulo.

On Paulista Avenue were some 19 floats carrying people including famous figures such as Daniela Mercury, a singer and one of the first artists to come out as gay in Brazil.