It is common for people in environments where they feel “safe” to feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts. WhatsApp app groups have become these “safe” spaces, and many people take advantage of the space to share ideas and content with discrimination based on gender, sexuality, ethnicity and social class. The “Buteco da Saúde” group is one of those groups, where male and female doctors feel free to laugh and debate discriminatory material.
The group “Buteco da Saúde” brings together 191 medical professionals from Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, Pará, Amazonas and other Brazilian states. One of the most active members is the Pernambuco physician Suzana de Souza Esteves (CRM 5861-PE). Graduated from the 1979 class at the University of Pernambuco (UPE), the professional is specialized in occupational medicine (RQE 2901).
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In the whatsapp group, the Pernambuco doctor shares images comparing, for example, the act of defending the play where a transsexual actress played the role of Jesus with the act of criticizing “Superman’s” son for being gay. “Supporting gay Jesus is freedom of expression, but criticizing LGBT heroes is homophobia? Dictatorship!” says the image.
The doctor also uses figures mocking transsexuals, depicted in the Snow White image. He also makes ironic remarks about the black movement, saying that the “Negresco” biscuit would have to change its name to “Afrodescendesco”. And he comments: “we are heading towards a state of ‘calm-mity’. Keep quiet to survive the imposition of opinion”.
The report asked criminal attorney Carina Acioly about the content. She sees scope for judicialization of positions. “In my interpretation, this ‘negresco’ fits into the crime of racism”, she says, who explains the difference for other crimes of this type.
“Racial insult, roughly speaking, is directed at a specific person, such as when someone calls another ‘monkey’ or when someone is prevented from entering a place because they are black. But the crime of racism is when the offense is directed at the collective, at the black community in general”, he points out.
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Regarding the possibility of homophobia or transphobia, Acioly assesses that, despite the understanding of the Supreme Court (STF), in 2019, that acts of homophobia can be included in the racism law, the accusation would be fragile.
“As a criminal lawyer, I think it is not possible to criminalize a conduct if there is no law that says that it is a crime. If there is no legal provision for this, how am I going to get to the police station and say that the person must be subject to the homophobia law?”, he explains.
Carina Acioly considers the association with the racism law difficult and explains that, in Brazil, the omission of the legislator (in this case the Federal Chamber and the Senate, as they have not yet approved any law on the subject), this omission cannot be justified to adopt a similar law – in the case of racism – aiming to harm the defendant.
“Our legal system prohibits the ‘in malam partem’ analogy. A law can only be used analogously if it is to benefit the defendant or the investigated”, she explains.
The lawyer points out, however, that “from a civil point of view, liability for moral damages on the part of those people who feel offended is appropriate”. [Continua após o vídeo.]
Asked if such lawsuits would be a violation of freedom of expression, Acioly denies it. “There is no absolute right. Nor is life an absolute right – you can kill another person in self-defense and there is a death penalty in case of open war. If not even life, which is a supreme asset protected by the legal system, if not even it is an absolute right, why is freedom of expression going to be?!”, he assesses.
She explains that people can say what they want, but they can also be held responsible for what they say. “The Constitution says you have the right to express yourself freely. But if someone is offended by your words, he will have the right to resolve in court, to have the right to honor or image preserved. It is the Judiciary that will say which right will prevail”, he summarizes.
Asked if the conversations, in a group of 190 people, could be considered a private space, she denied. “The social network space is no longer considered private. If you commit a slander or insult, whether on Whatsapp, Twitter or Instagram, that is considered public space for legal purposes”, says the lawyer, adding that some crimes have their sentences aggravated if they were committed on social networks.
Suzana de Souza Esteves, a physician, is a public official in the state, based at the Getúlio Vargas Hospital, in the Cordeiro neighborhood, Recife. But since April 2020 it has been working remotely through the “Atende em Casa” app.
The report got in touch with the doctor, by phone, but she preferred not to talk to the report. “Only after instructed by my lawyer, including so that what I say is not distorted and taken out of context. Unfortunately […] the press today, with few exceptions, is very biased. Put the ‘truth’ where you want it”, he said.
The images of the conversations were sent to Brazil in fact Pernambuco by one of the members of the “Buteco da Saúde” group. He and a few other members were uncomfortable with that kind of content. The doctor asked that his name not be published, but agreed to talk to the report. He claims to have sent the content of the conversations also to the Public Defender of Pernambuco (DPE), the Legislative Assembly (Alepe) and other media
The doctor believes that some positions revealed in the group can indeed affect the practice of medicine. “I understand that people have different positions, but the way that many professionals choose to defend their political positions ends up contaminating the exercise of the profession”, he says. “I made this complaint because it was reaching the limit of absurdity”, he adds, mentioning that some professionals in the group are against vaccination.
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The doctor says that it is very common, in that group, to use all kinds of “racist, transphobic and even misogynistic comments”. “There is prejudice against the poor, too. Everything to defend his political position”, he says. The doctor thinks that radicals are not the majority, but says there are a large number of medical professionals who gather in groups of this type.
He, who claims to have annulled the vote in the 2nd round of the 2018 election, says that the positions are a consequence of a total alignment with the ideas of the President of the Republic. “For them, there are only two different positions: either you are a Pocket member – and you have to be radical – or you are a PT. I didn’t vote for Bolsonaro and I didn’t want to vote for the PT, but they insist on calling me a PT, a ‘Lula’s widow’. I’m not even leftist”, he comments.
In the denouncing physician’s reasoning, the Brazilian middle class, mostly white, has spaces “reserved” for themselves where they interacted only with more affluent sectors of society. And one of those spaces was the medicine course. But, in the last decade, this class has seen poor and black people conquer these spaces. It would be the loss of this “privilege” that they had in relation to the poor that motivates them to prejudiced attacks:
“There are few doctors who are really rich. And very few who are poor. Most are middle-class. And they have shown discomfort with the greater presence of blacks in medical courses, for example”, evaluates the professional. they react by adopting such positions,” he complains.
The Code of Medical Ethics of the Federal Council of Medicine (CFM), although updated in 2020, does not make any mention of ethnic, racial, sexual orientation or gender discrimination. The CFM is one of the bodies that publicly supports President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) and has legitimized the distribution of drugs that have been proven to be ineffective against covid-19.
State Law No. 6,123/1968, which provides for the legal regime for civil servants in Pernambuco, mentions that if the professional is removed during a process involving a non-bailable crime, he will only receive a third of his salary. If he is acquitted, the difference he failed to receive will be reimbursed. Racism is an unbailable crime.
O Brazil in fact Pernambuco sent images of the conversations to the Regional Council of Medicine of Pernambuco (Cremepe) and to the State Health Department (SES), asking if they considered the content discriminatory and if it is subject to any position of the body. Until the publication of this report, Cremepe had not responded.
The Health Department states, through a note, that the agency “does not condone any type of discrimination based on gender, race, color or sexual orientation”; highlights having specific policies for the LGBTQIA+ population since 2015, with training of professionals on the subject; and concludes that irregular conduct of professionals in exercise must be formalized through the Health Ombudsman and class councils (in this case, Cremepe). Read below:
“The State Department of Health informs that it does not condone any type of discrimination based on gender, race, color or sexual orientation. The agency emphasizes that it works permanently in combating this type of practice based on actions carried out by specific coordinations aimed at health policies related to black populations and LGBTQIA+, including several permanent education activities to update professionals.
“SES-PE emphasizes that it was a pioneer in the implementation of a health coordination aimed at the specificities of the LGBTQIA+ population, which also has a policy issued in an ordinance in 2015. Through the coordination, several training sessions are being carried out with professionals of the network to guarantee respect for the use of the social name and the necessary reception for the reestablishment of the health condition of this population. SES also highlights that it has a coordination of Health Care for the Black Population, which also carries out various actions aimed at health issues that affect this population.
“Finally, SES-PE advises that irregular conduct of working professionals must be formalized by means of a complaint at the Health Ombudsman and/or before the class councils or other competent bodies, providing an opportunity for an investigation through the opening of administrative proceedings for adoption of the appropriate measures.
Source: BoF Pernambuco
Edition: Vanessa Gonzaga