Gustavo Borges Mariano*

University of Coimbra


Received Sylff fellowship in 2018
Academic supervisor: Ana Cristina Santos
Current affiliation: Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra

I have worked in Human Rights Education and Sexuality Education with youth. My work as a volunteer has been very productive all over the country, meeting youth and answering questions, while I can bring many queer and trans epistemes/voices to the school. Even teachers and parents have been very interested in talking about gender and sexuality. My biggest achievement so far has been conducting arts-based Sexuality Education workshops with youth, thanks to Sylff.

I have a Bachelor degree in Law (Federal University of Goiás), a Master degree in Philoophy of Law (University of Coimbra) and I am currently a PhD student at the Center for Social Studies/University of Coimbra.

Summary of Support Program Activities:
For the purpose of this project, Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a realm that encompasses intentional education on gender equality and sexuality issues (Vaz, et. al., 1996) and in practical terms, it may appear at schools through Sex Education (e.g. biology) and Education towards Citizenship, which encompasses the dimensions of Health and Sexuality, Gender Equality and Human Rights.

The key research question is: how is the production and reception of Human Rights discourses in the realm of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Portugal? To investigate it, this research conducts a sociology of absences and emergences (B.S. Santos, 2018) of knowledge on Human Rights, sexuality, and youth, since Human Rights may be taught as rights to be exercised by the students or vernacularized when institutional decisions are made.

The approach to assess the production of politics of Comprehensive Sexuality Education is critical discourse analysis. Based on Fairclough (2010) the data collected is coded, the social events (texts) are interpreted dialectically with social practices (orders of discourse), and then the power relations (e.g., domination and resistance) regarding youth are explained. Methodologically, social wrongs in the realm studied will be identified and questioned. We will also look for possible ways of overcoming obstacles through the resistance of institutions, activists, and youth.

The hypothesis consists of four possible types or categories of Human Rights discourses that may emerge in the Sexuality Education realm: intolerance, tolerance, recognition, and reparation.
Intolerance may be an exclusionary attitude towards queer people (Santos, Silva, Menezes, 2018), sexuality education, and gender studies (Junqueira, 2018). Tolerance is a political discourse and governmentality technology of managing the threatening difference (Brown, 2010). A recognition discourse would engage a capacity of reciprocal comprehension in which the Other and I are humans and equals in dignity (Honneth, 2015). Finally, reparation stands the negotiation of the reality to change harmful and dominant systems such as colonialism and whiteness (Kilomba, 2019), heteronormativity and capitalism.

The research is designed in three phases connected to the objectives as it follows:
Phase 1 assesses the discourses that may emerge in Comprehensive Sexuality Education, grounded by Human Rights studies and Gender studies. The main theoretical notions composing our intersectional (Collins, 2019) starting point are: there is knowledge hindered as less scientific and valid (B.S. Santos, 2018); Human Rights are colonially built and they do not intrinsically mean social transformation, possibly being used to exclude people (Patternnote & Kuhar, 2018) but having the potential of being mobilized to dismantle inequalities (Baxi, 2006; Kapur, 2006; Goodale, 2007); systems of domination such as colonialism/coloniality, heteronormativity/patriarchy and capitalism hierarchize and marginalize people (Lugones, 2008; Butler, 1990; B.S. Santos, 2018).

The literature review on Comprehensive Sexuality Education grounded by those theories will guide the documental collection and analysis of public and international educational policies regarding the subjects of Sexuality Education and Education towards Citizenship. This phase focus on the reception of discourses and the national production of policies. To clarify the contextualization of international standards in national guidelines, interviews will be conducted with decision-makers at the Ministry of Education responsible for the Sexuality Education and Citizenship subjects, and the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (3 interviews).

Since the beginning of the research, media will be collected to keep track of national conundrums around the theme (including the Constitutional Review running in the Constitutional Court). To monitor discourses and actions of civil associations and other activists, a media data collection and content analysis will be undertaken from 2021 onwards in the news and social media of the LGBTI associations and the anti-gender movement Leave Children Alone (Deixem as Crianças em Paz).
Duration of Phase 1: September/2021 to March/2022 (7 months)

Phase 2 examines the implementation of national guidelines at schools. Two types of actors will be involved: teachers and activists. After snowball sampling, teachers who are responsible for those subjects in at least six schools will be interviewed. This process will look for a diversified group of schools and teachers based on region, social-economic status, and gender in Portugal (6 interviews). Interviews will also be conducted with the heads of two civil associations that work with Gender and Sexuality Education, such as rede ex aequo and Plano I, to discuss their experience with schools (2 interviews). Documents such as curriculum and projects offered by the interviewees will be analyzed along with their accounts. The questions to be answered are: is there any resistance against sexuality, gender, and Human Rights within those practices? How do they make sense of Human Rights as the ground to education and as a subject to be taught?
Duration of Phase 2: April/2022 to March/2023 (12 months)

Phase 3 investigates the emergency of youth’s voices in three of the six schools and implements non-formal education sessions to discuss sexuality with young people. The groups will be recruited by considering a diversified sample of students regarding social markers such as gender, nationality, and race (mantenho?), and they should be at least sixteen years old. They will take part in 2-hour-long sessions. These sessions will be needs-led and guided by ethical principles. Three focus groups with the same students will be conducted afterward to check the coherence of the analyzed data and to clarify points related to Human Rights (3 nonformal sexuality education sessions and 3 focus groups).

Within this phase and throughout its completion, the aim is to benefit from opportunities to share results and discussions of the thesis, dialogue about them, and exchange knowledge in mutual learning with civil society, academia, and the actors involved in the research. The thesis will integrate recommendations for policies and further research on the area, envisioning social transformation through social and epistemic justice.
Duration of Phase 3: from April/2023 to August/2025 (29 months)

The research will always be attentive to ethical principles, ensuring informed consent and anonymity in the interviews and activities, respecting national and international standards of Good Practices in Qualitative Research. Depending upon public health conditions, the interviews, sessions, and focus groups may be online, whether asynchronous (Phase 1) or synchronous (Phases 2 and 3).


To contact this fellow, email the Sylff Association at sylff[a] (replace [a] with @).