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Diversity ‘To ban is to deny the debate’, says activist about project against multigender bathrooms in Manaus

Proposal surfaced after a video went viral on the Internet exposing multi-gender bathrooms at a McDonald's location (Reproduction/Twitter)

Bruno Pacheco – Cenarium Magazine


MANAUS – After the national repercussion of the case of multi-gender bathrooms in a McDonald’s unit in Bauru, in the countryside of São Paulo, a Bill (PL) presented in the City Council of Manaus (CMM) on Wednesday, 17, wants to ban in public and private establishments in the capital of Amazonas the installation and use of multi-gender bathrooms – i.e., those that can be used by anyone.

For activists of the LGBTQIA+ movement, proposing the agenda means running away from the debate. “Prohibition cannot be a solution. It is denying the debate”, declared human rights activist and member of the Difusão Collective Michelle Andrews, in an interview with CENARIUM MAGAZINE.

The text is authored by councilman and evangelical pastor João Carlos (Republicans), who justified the possibility of the measure being a risk to women’s safety. According to the parliamentarian, without mentioning the LGBTQIA+ public, the multigender bathroom can be used by men and women simultaneously and that female users would be more vulnerable to cases of violence and sexual harassment with the implementation of these spaces. For him, prohibiting the installation of the toilets will guarantee the right to preserve privacy.

Councilman João Carlos (Republicans) filed a bill on Wednesday, 17, at the Manaus City Council. (Photo: Promotion)

“The simultaneous use of bathrooms by men and women increases the risk of sexual abuse in relation to individual bathrooms and, from the perspective of safety, this project aims to inhibit the practice of sexual abuse, such as rape as a result of the simultaneous use by men and women of bathrooms in public and private environments”, says an excerpt of the project.

In the project, the councilman also proposes that the bathrooms for men and women should contain the identification of each gender. In establishments where it is not possible to install specific rooms for each gender, it is authorized to use them alternately and individually. Only parents and guardians of children, people with special needs, and the elderly may use the restrooms simultaneously.

Debate

The debate about the use of multi-gender bathrooms came to the fore last week, after a video viralized on the Internet in which a woman appears, apparently angry, calling McDonald’s communist because of unisex toilet facilities in the Bauru unit, in São Paulo.

The bathrooms, despite being for individual use in the establishment, drew the woman’s attention and made the mayor of Bauru, Suéllen Rosim (Patriot), to fine the restaurant, alleging non-compliance with the rules of the Sanitary Code.

“The Health Surveillance was on site and the requirements of the municipal health code are not being met, so (sic) the measures were taken!”, said the mayor, on Twitter, without specifying what the measures were.

Running away from the debate?

According to data from the research Dossier Murders and Violence Against Brazilian Transvestites and Transsexuals in 2020, released on January 21st of this year, Brazil is the country that killed the most transsexuals in the world last year. In all, there were 175 murders of transgender people recorded in 2020, equivalent to one death every two days. The amount surpassed the number of 2019, which was 124 murders.

According to the survey, transvestites, transgender women and men have their basic rights violated daily and using the public bathroom is still an obstacle. Last year alone, 9% of trans people in Brazil reported having suffered some violation regarding the basic right to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender identity they identify with.

For human rights activist Michelle Andrews, an ally of the LGBTQIA+ movement and member of the Coletivo Difusão, prohibiting the installation and use of multi-gender bathrooms cannot be a solution and means running away from the debate on the issue. To CENARIUM MAGAZINE, the activist said that these enclosures aim to combat violence against the trans population.

“This proposal (from the CMM) is another reflection of how our City Council is no longer interested in real problems. It does not reflect the needs of the city’s population”, Michelle said.

Michelle Andrews is a human rights activist and member of the Diffusion Collective. (Photo: Personal File/Reproduction)

The activist points out that the issue of multi-gender bathrooms is essential for a dignified life for the trans population and that it causes no impact proportionally to society as a whole. “This proposal is a direct attack. It means that there is a congressman who thinks that an issue that is not causing any problem in the city, but that generates media, especially in a conservative base, has decided to use his mandate to create imaginary enemies”, he reiterated.

Ruan Wendell, president of the movement Unegro Amazonas and director of the National LGBT Union of Amazonas, reiterated to CENARIUM MAGAZINE that Brazil is a secular country and that it is necessary to guarantee trans people access to multigender bathrooms. For him, these places should be a guaranteed right for this public.

“We could expect no less from the evangelical bench, legislative mandates are to serve society, regardless of their gender, race, or color. About this case, specifically, transphobia is explicit in the attitudes of the councilman”, explained the activist.

Ruan Wendell is president of the Unegro Amazonas movement and director of the National LGBT Union in Amazonas (Photo: Personal File)

For Ruan Wendell, affirmative actions, public or private, aimed at combating historical, systematic and structural oppression, such as the creation of “multi-gender” bathrooms should not be seen as suspicious or unwanted, but as imperatives of equality in our society.

“The use of bathrooms by transgenders, according to the gender they identify with, is supported by the rights of personality and the dignity of the human person, foreseen in the Federal Constitution. I emphasize that, in the defense of the democratic rule of law and of a plural and diverse society, it is not admissible that institutions reproduce discrimination and behaviors of a dominant group over a minority”, he pondered.

The director of the National LGBT Union of Amazonas also recalls that the discussion on gender has also been the subject of debate in the Supreme Court (STF). “The municipalities that aimed to ‘censor’ the debate on gender identity and orientation in schools had their unconstitutionality declared by our Supreme Court”, concluded Wendell.

Check out Councilman João Carlos’ Law Project 615/2021:banheiro-multigenerosBaixar

Check out the Dossier Murders and Violence Against Brazilian Transvestites and Transsexuals in 2020:dossie-trans-2021-29jan2021Baixar