Although the following video has been circulating on the Brazilian Web for several months, it has only recently come to the attention of authorities and human rights groups. It shows two handcuffed men in what appears to be a police station, forced to repeatedly kiss each other on the mouth as men in uniform stand jeering nearby.
Eyes downcast, face flushed with humiliation, the two men lean forward and tentatively kiss each other on the lips. “I didn’t see anything, show us some tongue!” calls a taunting voice, as others hoot with laughter. Several cell phone cameras film the men's faces close up, while a hooded policeman hovers in the background. His uniform indicates that the officers involved in the incident are members of the military police of Pernambuco state, in northern Brazil.
Wilson Damazio, a senior police official in Pernambuco, called the video “an embarrassment” to the police force and said he had ordered an investigation into the incident. While he assured that those responsible would be punished, he also added that “unpleasant scenes" are bound to occur in police stations around the world.
The video emerged just one week after another case of police brutality shocked Pernambuco residents: military police were caught on camera savagely beating two burglars
who had attempted to rob the home of the state’s vice-governor, João Lyra Neto.
The World Report released late January by Human Rights Watch, a human rights advocacy group, denounced the massive scale of police violence in Brazil
. According to the organization's data, police in the state of Rio de Janeiro killed 505 people in the first six months of 2010 alone. The report also pointed to widespread accounts of officers operating within unofficial militias.
"Police actions are so far behind the advances made by the judicial system in terms of gay rights in Brazil"
Mauro Paim is a gay rights blogger from Porto Alegre. He wrote about the incident on his blog
Everyone in the gay community was deeply shocked by this video. That members of our country’s own police force use such blatantly homophobic tactics to humiliate detainees is a strong blow to all of us. The policemen make racist comments as well: at one point, one of them calls the men 'monkeys', which is a typical racial slur for mulatos in Brazil.
These advances, however, are slow to show their effects on the ground. Brazilian society as a whole remains quite homophobic. It’s a cultural, latin macho thing. Brazil is also a deeply Catholic country, and the Church’s rejection of gays doesn’t help. This kind of incident, as well as the horrid recent incidents of public gay attacks in Sao Paulo’s Paulista avenue
, show our country still has a long way to go in terms of LGBT rights."
"The Pernambuco police have a reputation for being corrupt and violent"
Juliana De Albuquerque Katz is a student from Recife, the state capital of Pernambuco. She currently lives in Tel Aviv, where she is completing her master’s degree.
The Pernambuco police have a reputation for being corrupt and violent, nobody trusts them. Typically, the incidents of corruption are directed more towards wealthy or middle-class citizens, whereas more openly brutal incidents target mostly poorer citizens.
I remember, when I lived in Recife, police mounted a sort of scam during carnival week. They would stop people in their cars and ask for their papers. Then they would confiscate the papers and invent a bogus reason to threaten to take away the car as well, unless the driver paid a bribe. Because it was carnival, no-one wanted to deal with going to the car pound, so most people paid bribes.
State police are underpaid, and it is common knowledge that they’re in constant contact with criminal gangs. So it’s not that surprising that they use gang’s tactics to brutalize and humiliate their victims.”
Post written with France 24 journalist Lorena Galliot.