Lesbian Resistance Collective creates project to map the socio-cultural situation and emotional state of lesbian and bisexual women in Rio’s Maré Favela Complex

In hopes of presenting the daily experiences of lesbian and bisexual women from the slums, specifically those who live in the Maré Favela Complex in Rio de Janeiro, the Lesbian Resistance Collective of Maré created a project to map the socio-cultural and emotional situation of lesbian and bisexual women.  The project was organized by Beatriz […]

Lebian Resistence Collective

In hopes of presenting the daily experiences of lesbian and bisexual women from the slums, specifically those who live in the Maré Favela Complex in Rio de Janeiro, the Lesbian Resistance Collective of Maré created a project to map the socio-cultural and emotional situation of lesbian and bisexual women.  The project was organized by Beatriz Adura Martins and Dayana Gusmão (Read: https://bit.ly/2TDB5ES), and the research was carried out in partnership with the Institute of Psychology at the Federal Fluminense University (UFF) between November 2019 and June 2020. The mapping project is available for download on the Metanoia Editora website, run by lesbian women Léa Carvalho and Malu Santos. [1]

Their experiences were shared within Espaço Casulo, or Cocoon Space in English, where the therapeutic group took place, as well as in other social spaces used by the collective, allowing the mapping to take place alongside this region’s residents, rather than somewhere distant from their everyday realities. Before the research began, the psychology students leading it first learned about the situations that permeate lesbian and bisexual experiences within the favelas by exploring the realities of the Maré Favela Complex in person. From this exploration, fundamental questions were born that now form the mapping project.

The document aims to register and denounce the scarcity of information on lesbian favela experiences, particularly non-violent ones, seeing as hegemonic representations of favelas remit the violence and abandonment of public power. “Generally, these surveys only deal with middle-class lesbian women and/or those ‘on track,’ and the reality of lesbians in the favelas ends up being ignored. For this reason, the idea of ​​the mapping project is to affirm these existences in Maré and not to tell them how they should be,” explains Beatriz Adura [2]. Thus, she presents the question: how can numbers and surveying serve to chart subjective experiences?

Based on these reflections, the organizers affirm that this is pioneer research, as they know of no other socio-cultural and emotional mapping of lesbians and bisexuals within Brazilian favelas. With this, they hope to extend the discussion to many other mapping projects about these women’s realities across the country. The organizers emphasize that the plurality of “lesbianalities” needs to be made visible, as research reflects that, even in Maré, there are unique differences between their realities and those of other women. As  outlined in their objectives, the mapping intends to influence the construction of public policies that consider the specific lived experiences of lesbian and bisexual women from these communities, as well as to open debate and produce conviviality that contributes to the elimination of social marginalization that lesbians face in the Maré favelas.

Eight out of the 16 total favelas within the complex were included in the mapping project. The 40-question long questionnaire obtained a total of 59 respondents who answered questions about race, housing, maternity, religion, basic sanitation, and family relationships, among others. Having a majority of university student respondents, the project highlights the importance of community college entrance exams in Maré.  Looking at questions related to gender, researchers noted that these questions are more advanced academic questions. Gender is not a common topic that is considered in the daily lives of these women, so much so that 20% chose not to answer these questions and three designated themselves as non-binary.

Regarding race, 70% declared themselves to be non-white, a fact that the organizers see as vital to creating public policies that contemplate the reality of the favelas, as, generally, these surveys focus on the perspectives of white and middle-class lesbian women. More specifically, 47.5% declared themselves Black; 28.8%, white; 20.3%, brown; 3.4%, Indigenous; and no person claimed to be Asian. “We draw attention to the importance of specific surveys on methods of favela sociability that often do not appear in the statistics of generic surveys, always leaving the favela population destined to talk about their problems and violence. Lesbians living in the favelas of Maré exist and are mostly Black, brown, and Indigenous, representing 71.2% of this population,” the report indicates.

In regard to violence, the interviewees said they felt safer and more comfortable within the favela to express their sexuality, as they have already suffered attacks outside of it. With this, the research reveals that domestic violence is something that characterizes the daily life of lesbians in Maré. Many of them have already been referred by family members to some sort of conversion therapy [3] based on religious practices.  In this sense, this data reflects how the advancement of the conservative agenda and the growth of neo-Pentecostal churches in the region influence the situation of violence and the denial of lesbian existence. For these women, psychological violence represents twice as much oppression as physical violence, resulting in 70% of them declaring that they have no religion.

Given this scenario, the organizers explain that uniting the of lesbians in Maré was important for the construction of research, however, this was only the first stage. At the moment, the Lesbian Resistance Collective of Maré is looking for sponsorship for the second phase of the mapping project in order to cover more favelas throughout the complex. Few financial resources, the lack of technological material and even the difficulty in access to internet, made the project difficult to complete, not mention the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed the end of their research.

“Police violence was another factor that made research difficult. At various times when we were able to mobilize women to answer the questionnaire, police operations were taking place. Militarization only caused damage. For this reason, this research is done from a perspective of demilitarization of the favela and people’s lives. It is necessary to create a territory of care, of life production and not of control,” says Dayana Gusmão. [4]

The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human rights congratulates all involved in the elaboration of the dossier and supports all research that affirms the favela as a place of knowledge production. In this sense, we recommend that the Brazilian State:

1 – Create public policies that contemplate the diversity and intersectionality of lesbian women from slums;

2 – Undertake policies that aim to demilitarize slums, not only during the pandemic, but as a continual local policy;

3 – Implement the IACHR’s recommendations from its report on Violence against LGBTI people (2015) regarding actions to analyze and assess the prevalence of violence against lesbian and bisexual women: adopt specific measures to prevent and investigate this type of violence with a differential approach that considers power relations at the intersection of sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender expression [4]


[1] Access the mapping project: https://bit.ly/2TDB5ES

[2] Speeches presented during the launch of mapping project on YouTube at the Maré Museum, which took place on October 17th.

[3] Access the report on Conversion Therapies by the UN IESOGI, Victor Madrigal-Borloz: https://undocs.org/A/HRC/44/53

[4] IACHR. Violence against LGBTI people. 2015, p. 311, par. 69. Available at: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/violencelgbtipersons.pdf

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