Rio Gay Pride aims to tackle Brazilian 'homophobia'

Transvestite at Rio's gay pride parade The Rio Gay Pride has become a regular fixture in the city's calendar of big events

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Huge crowds have been taking part in Rio de Janeiro's Gay Pride parade.

Organisers Grupo Arco-Iris (Rainbow Group) were expecting more than one million people to join the carnival-inspired event on Copacabana beach.

Mothers of gay men and women opened the parade, which this year aimed to highlight the issue of homophobia in Brazilian society.

Grupo Arco-Iris says 266 people were killed in Brazil last year because of their sexual orientation.

"The Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender community spends most of the year in Brazil hiding, deprived of many of their rights," Arco-Iris president Julio Moreira told Jornal do Brasil newspaper.

Carnival atmosphere

Rio is widely seen as a liberal city, and many families join the party every year.

A transvestite poses at Rio's gay pride in Copacabana Joubert Moreno (left) and Katya Maranhao pay homage to Brazilian gay-icon Carmen Miranda

But campaign groups say there is a lot to be done mainly in smaller towns and cities across the country.

"We need to discuss this issue in the schools and in the National Congress," Mr Moreira said.

Rio's 17th Gay Pride is backed by the local government and has a true carnival atmosphere, which attracts foreign tourists and visitors from other parts of Brazil.

"There is no prejudice in our hearts, but love instead," is the theme.

Fifteen sound-trucks, playing carnival music, have been placed along Copacabana's famous seaside boulevard, Avenida Atlantica.

Many of the participants were wearing typical carnival costumes.

"I am here to campaign for homophobia to become a crime under Brazilian law," said school teacher Katya Furacao.

"And to demand equal rights to marriage," added the teacher, who dressed as Brazilian 1940's Hollywood star Carmen Miranda for the parade.

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