Monday, May 26, 2008

Millions celebrate gay pride in Brazil parade

Millions of people waving rainbow flags and wearing lavish Carnival costumes paraded in South America's biggest city to celebrate gay pride and demand an end to homophobia and sexism.

To the beat of loud music blasted off more than 20 sound trucks, gay men, lesbians and cross-dressers danced and cheered through the skyscraper-lined Avenida Paulista, Sao Paulo's financial heart on Sunday.

Organisers expected more than 3 million people at the 12th annual Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade, which traditionally is one of the biggest in the world. Local authorities did not immediately give an estimate on the number of people attending the event, but said millions were likely to be present.

According to Sao Paulo's department of tourism, the parade was expected to attract nearly 330,000 tourists to the city, 20 per cent more than last year's event. At least 5 per cent of those tourists were expected from abroad.

The tourists are expected to bring about USD 115 million to the city, in addition to helping create 13,500 direct and indirect jobs.

The parade caps a full week of attractions, including the Cultural Gay Fair, Gay Day and the International GLS Tourism Forum, the city's tourism department said.

''We still see cases of homophobia in the country,'' Brazilian Tourism Minister Marta Suplicy told the crowd from the top of a sound truck. ''We still don't have a law making homophobia a crime, and that needs to change. Congress has to approve this law.''

Authorities arrested at least five people for small robberies during the parade, and a man was injured in the leg after being run over by one of the sound trucks.

Last year, at least 3 million people packed the streets of Sao Paulo for what organisers said was the world's largest gay pride parade.