A gay Brazilian army sergeant has been arrested just as the country’s first national gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans rights conference takes place.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is due to address the conference today, which is being credited as an important historic event in the history of Brazil.
Sgt Laci Marinho de Araujo was taken into custody after he and his partner took part in a television interview on Wednesday.
He was arrested by the military police who surrounded the TV station until he came out, and has now been taken to an Army prison.
The sergeant had been featured on the cover of this month’s Epoca magazine, where he and his partner sergeant Fernando Alcantara de Figueiredo had given an interview.
In it they talked openly about being in a stable relationship for 10 years, and how they had been living together.
Sgt de Araujo had been missing from his unit since April as he was suffering for a number of health and mental problems.
He claims he has been a victim of ‘sexual discrimination.’
The ministry of defence has denied this, claiming that he had been arrested on the grounds of his desertion from the military.
“This is not a problem of sexual discrimination, but rather one of discipline,” Defence Minister Nelson Jobim told newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.
In spite of the positive shift of attitude towards gay men and lesbian women serving in the army, the arrest of the sergeant raises some serious doubts about how real and substantial the shift really is.