Organisers estimated more than three million people were to join Sao Paolo’s pride parade yesterday in the world’s biggest celebration of gay culture.

Sao Paolo has celebrated at pride every year since 1997 with steadily growing numbers. Although the military police stopped releasing official figures six years ago, when pride-goers numbered two and a half million.

In 2011, event-goers in the southern hemisphere’s largest city numbered over 4 million, organiser said.

The message of this year’s pride event was: “Homophobia has a cure: Education and criminalization”.

A judge approved Brazil’s first gay marriage last year. The country had legalised civil unions in May but stopped short of granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Sao Paulo state Judge Fernando Henrique Pinto ruled that two men could convert their civil union into a full marriage, a move which was since repeated by individual couples in civil unions around the country.

Everton Correia, a gay rights activist, told ITN: “There are 190 million Brazilians and not all gay people have come out. This is a great parade and a great event, but there is still a lot we have to do to fight against homophobic violence. Fortunately Sao Paulo is one of the few cities where people show us a little more respect.”