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Brazil’s overweight population: hold up for yourself

Recife is a metropolis on the northeastern coast of Brazil. Schools here are buying queen-sized desks, hospitals are buying queen-sized beds and MRI beds, and ancient theaters in the city will provide larger seats.

Recife has the highest percentage of obese people in Brazil, but it is also fast becoming the most overweight-friendly city in the world.

Experts say there is a rush across Brazil to write protections for overweight people into law, and Recife is no exception, which is rare in the world.

Brazil’s obesity rate has doubled in the past 20 years, with one in four adults obese. In response to this change, some advocacy groups have been fighting to change the plight of these people. They have certainly achieved impressive results, not only in reversing attitudes towards overweight people, but also in changing the relevant laws.

In Brazil, subways have special seats for overweight people, and banks and other places have priority windows, and they can also be protected if they face discrimination.

The law stipulates that a day should be designated each year to promote the rights and interests of overweight people.

Students draw posters against weight bias in classroom activities.

Recife, home to 1.6 million people, passed a law last year requiring schools to buy oversized desks and train teachers on weight discrimination so they can teach it in class. Another law mandates that one day a year be designated to promote rights protections for overweight people.

“There is so much more we can do, and if possible, we want to spread some of the practices around the world.” Carla Recife, an advocate in Recife, has since discovered the seat belts on ordinary planes. After it was not suitable for her, she has been working to promote the promulgation of new laws. “There are overweight people everywhere, and their lives are very difficult.”

Resend paused, then went on to explain: “Brazilian culture – the requirement for a perfect body, perfect curves – can make life more difficult for overweight people.”

Like many other countries, Brazil has tackled racism and sexism. Today, the nation of “body firsts” (think plastic surgery, thongs on the beach, feathered beauties at carnivals) is also paying attention to the problem of overweight people.

“Obesity” has become a buzzword in Brazil. Obesity-related issues have sparked heated discussions on Brazil’s most-watched reality show, with millions of threads on social media and short-video sites.

The famous Brazilian singer Anita once invited an obese lady to participate in the recording of a music video, and she did not shy away from the cellulite on her body, which caused an uproar in Brazil. Last year, some journalists and broadcasters were widely criticized for mentioning the weight of country music singer Maria Mendonza after her death in a plane crash.

There is still a lot of public transport that isn’t friendly enough for overweight people.

In a way, Brazil is following the example of the United States and Europe, with more plus-size models on the catwalks. However, Brazil’s actions in the field of public policy have left other countries behind, with discussions about weight extending from the media to city halls, influencing government legislatures and even Congress.

In 2015, Brazil amended a federal law to extend protections for people with disabilities to overweight people, allowing them to use priority seats on public transport, priority access to services in places such as banks, and more. Currently, there are queen-sized seats on the subway in Sao Paulo, as well as inside the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Three states in Brazil set September 10 each year as the “Overweight People’s Rights Protection Day”. Among them, Rondônia passed a law in December last year to ensure that overweight people have “smooth access to all establishments”, enjoy “fair treatment” and are not subject to “discrimination against obesity”.

“What Brazil has achieved is the result of a collective effort that is unheard of elsewhere.” Rebecca Poole, a professor at the University of Connecticut, has been paying attention to relevant laws. “In other countries, such as the United States, the laws that protect the rights of overweight people can almost be said to be is blank.”

Poole said there has been no law in the U.S. other than Michigan in 1976 to protect overweight people from discrimination. Massachusetts, which had previously considered but failed, is now back on the agenda. Iceland’s capital Reykjavik passed a similar law in 2016. In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that severe obesity also counts as a disability, thus protecting severely obese people from discrimination, but mild obesity is not.

The Brazilian advocacy group Obesity in the Law studied Brazilian court decisions and found that the term “fatphobia” started appearing in decisions in 2014, and has appeared more frequently since then. In October, a judge ordered a comedian to pay a $1,000 fine for mocking a dancer’s weight. “The defendant is clearly obese,” the judge said in the judgment. “We protect freedom of speech, but the government has a responsibility to protect the rights of minorities.”

Even so, the laws were not enforced properly. According to Rayan Souza, founder of Obesity in the Law, despite the law enacted in 2015, there are still many public transport vehicles that are not friendly enough to overweight people. Souza cited a recent example in Guarapari, where an obese woman got stuck in the turnstile of a bus. While firefighters rescued the woman, other passengers were roaring with laughter, Brazilian news media reported. “When I think about what those people said, I want to cry.” Rosangela Pereira, the person involved, said in an interview with the media.

Fans dressed in fan t-shirts prepare to enter before a beauty pageant for the overweight crowd in Recife last November.

cheerful opening performance

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington found that in 2020, nearly 29 percent of Brazil’s population over the age of 20 was obese, up from just 15 percent in 2000, making Brazil the world’s largest increase in obesity over the same period. largest country. Among the top 10 countries by population in the world, Mexico, the United States and Russia have 31 to 37 percent of the obese population, followed by Brazil.

Claudia Carlier, an endocrinologist at a well-known hospital in São Paulo, believes that part of the reason for the surge in obesity rates may be that residents are eating more fast food and processed foods after wages have risen, and health problems such as diabetes, Hypertension and sleep apnea syndrome are also on the rise. She believes the government should do more to tackle the problem, such as putting relevant information on food labels. Food labels in Brazil often do not state the sugar content.

Still, she supports laws that protect overweight people. “In any case, obesity rates are indeed on the rise, and that’s a reality we have to face,” Carlier said.

In Brazil, discussions related to obesophobia refer to misperceptions about the Brazilian body shape, both at home and abroad. Advocates say that Brazilians are more keen than most countries in the world to have plastic surgery for lip augmentation, breast augmentation, buttocks, muscle gain and liposuction, which shows that this misperception has a huge impact on people. Impact.

The audience below the stage applauds the contestants.

In 2019, Brazil became the world’s largest plastic surgery country. According to data from an international plastic surgery group, in 2020, despite the impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, 6.1 people in Brazil have plastic surgery per 1,000 people. Compared with this, the country that completed the most plastic surgery in the same year- In the United States, 4.5 out of every 1,000 people have plastic surgery. There’s even a risky surgery — transferring fat from the abdomen to the buttocks — dubbed the “Brazilian butt lift.”

Recife hosted a beauty pageant for overweight people in November with the theme “Say ‘No’ to Obesity,” aimed at boycotting the so-called “perfect body”. The scene in the game was dramatic: the contestants stood on the stage while the actors figured out how to humiliate them.

Many Brazilians admit that their culture does favor curvy women over other Western countries. However, if you visit the beaches and parks of Brazil, you will find there are many overweight men and women who are very confident in their bodies, and who don’t shy away from wearing bikinis and tight swimming trunks without any discomfort.

Not everyone is so confident. Souza said that even though she lives close to the beach, she hasn’t worn a bikini since being mocked for her whale-like body 11 years ago. She said: “Having the courage to wear a bikini is mainly about whether you can accept yourself, not society.”

One of the group’s goals is to integrate overweight people into society, said Carol Statler, founder of the advocacy group Body Beauty. Perhaps more important, she says, is to first allow them to move freely in society.

“It’s not just a discussion about beauty or the standard Brazilian figure,” Statler said after the pageant, when the theater chairs had already left deep marks on her legs, “more important issues. It’s how we can be free from the constraints of the chair.”

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