Since the early days of Brazilian democratisation in the 1980s, public policies in a wide range of sectors, including education, have increasingly involved a wide web of social actors. In common with many other countries, sexuality has not figured historically in Brazil’s pantheon of so-called ‘structural policies’, but remained confined to specific areas, such as sexuality education or HIV/AIDS prevention. The fact that sexuality is not usually recognised as a key dimension of social wellbeing is one limitation of social policies because simply by being lesbian, gay, transsexual, travesti or an intersex person frequently impairs the ability of these individuals to access educational, economic and social resources.

The launching of the Brazil Without Homophobia programme in 2004 signalled a positive shift in that respect, partly because it coincided with the consolidation and expansion of Brazil’s income transfer programme in 2002, when the Workers’ Party administration began. This expanded income transfer programme was renamed Bolsa Família (Family Grant), a federal programme of direct income transfer to families in situations of poverty or extreme 3 poverty. It focuses upon households with children between birth and the age of 15 whose monthly income is of 70 Brazilian reais (R$) (approximately £18.00). The transfer is directly made to women who are responsible for ensuring children’s school attendance and regular health reviews (including vaccination) and who are seen by the programme managers as the most efficient administrators of scarce resources.


This case study was a collaboration between IDS and researchers from the Universidade de São Paulo, coordinated by Ilana Mountian.

Case study

This case study presented an analysis of public education policies and considers where these policies intersect with programmes aimed at preventing and reducing discrimination and violence against LGBT people. The first part of the report detailed the current Brazilian social context focusing on: levels of inequality and poverty; educational indicators; data on homophobic violence; and an assessment of dogmatic religious discourses that are increasingly affecting policymaking and implementation in areas pertaining to sexuality. The report then considered the intersection of education policies with sexuality, and examined this intersection in relation to national policy measures aimed at tackling homophobia.


The empirical material that informed this audit came from two main sources. The first was the critical review of policy documents produced by the secretary of continuous learning, literacy, diversity and inclusion (SECADI3 – Secretaria da educação continuada, alfabetização, diversidade e inclusão), the sector at the Ministry of Education since 2004 that has been made responsible for the implementation of the educational components of the BWH programme. The second main source was a series of seven interviews conducted with key informants from different parts of Brazil who were either directly involved in the development of policies against homophobia in the educational system, or are researchers in this particular domain, and with some LGBT rights activists. A guideline oriented the interviews, but interviewees were free to choose the contents they wanted to answer. 

Furthermore, members of the research team have participated in a meeting entitled School trajectories of travestis and transsexual people: history, limitations and rights organised by the Department of Education of Belo Horizonte (capital city of the state of Minas Gerais) in partnership with LGBT Rights Center of the Municipal Government5 that involved travestis, transsexual women, educators and policymakers.

A Critical Analysis of Public Policies on Education and LGBT Rights in Brazil

  • A clearly supported strategy is needed against homophobia and sexism in educational policies and the national curriculum.
  • There is a need to articulate and strengthen the intersectionality between educational policies against homophobia with other public policies, such as poverty reduction, work, health and others.
  • Long-term policies against homophobia should be developed.
  • There is a need to acknowledge and develop strategies to tackle local resistance to policy implementation.
  • Resources are required to support staff promoting equality (information, workshops, protection from abuse, permanent forums).

Education policies in Brazil

  • Research indicates that many trans young people, and poor trans youth in particular, drop out of education or under perform due to bullying and violence in Brazilian schools.
  • Religious moral conservatism has played a big part in the failure of the 2004 'Brazil without Homophobia' programme to achieve its objectives of combating discrimination and supporting sexual diversity in the education system.