Abstinence or Condoms? Brazil's Christians Debate Campaign Theme for Carnivals

An effort in Brazil to protect carnival-goers against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) using slogans such as “Use a Condom in this Carnival,” is sparking debate among religious leaders in the country.

Evangelical and Catholic parliamentarians have called for changes in the content of campaign messages being proposed by the Ministry of Health, which currently advises people to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and undesirable pregnancies by using a condom. Religious leaders are saying that sexual abstinence would be a better line for the campaign.

“Not without a condom” and “Whatever your fantasy is, use the condom,” say the slogans of the current campaign.

One of the messages suggested by the Christian parliamentarians to the Minister of Healthy, Alexandre Padilha, at the Congressional Family meeting was: “In this carnival do not have sex. Keep yourself holy for marriage, because family is good.”

One such carnival is the annual festival held 46 days before Easter which draws millions of people to watch colorful and extravagant street parades conducted by “samba”schools. With high rates of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity usually seen during this time, the government is under increasing pressure to hold campaigns to protect carnival-goers against STDs.

However, not all Christians are backing the religious parliamentarians in calling for abstinence to be the central theme of the campaign to protect carnival-goers.

Rev. Marcos Amaral, president of the Guanabara Synod in Rio de Janeiro, has said to The Christian Post that religious politicians might be exaggerating the situation in an effort to bring about change in people’s sexual behavior.

“The evangelicals in Brazil think that the entire world should become like a chapel,” said Amaral to The Christian Post.

For Amaral, Christians have to be the “Salt of the Earth” by influencing the world through their basic principles, and by bringing Bible-related issues to discussion. He alleged that the carnival is a cultural, not moral nor religious festival, and for this reason he doesn’t believe people should be obligated to accept abstinence.

“We have to understand that there are different opinions and I think if people don’t accept [being abstinent], I hope they will protect themselves,” he said referring to the use of condoms.

On the other hand, Márcio Miranda, another Brazilian pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church, supports their initiative to promote sexual abstinence, which he argues follows biblical teachings. However, he thinks that is still important that the Ministry of Health also keeps encouraging the use of condoms for those not willing to accept the message of abstinence.

“One initiative doesn’t annul the other,” he commented to CP. “The government should guide people to take contraceptive measures and use condoms to avoid further adverse consequences due to promiscuous sexual behaviors in the carnival.”

According to media reports, Alexandre Padilha has agreed to make a campaign targeting religious people, however, there is no sign that the current campaign will be changed.

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