A story of astonishing bigotry and thuggish homophobia was beamed around the world last month when it was reported that two young women —Yunka Mihura, 21, and Joana Palhares, 18, — were manhandled, beaten, arrested, and thrown in a jail cell for engaging in a same-sex kiss at a public gospel concert in a park in Brazil.
The event was hosted by pastor and Congressman Marco Feliciano. No stranger to controversy, Feliciano's racist, antigay beliefs are well-known in Brazil and around the world. His election to congress — along with his seat as the head of Brazil's Human Rights and Minorities Commission — raises many eyebrows, considering his vociferous distaste for gays, people of color and, ironically, human rights in general.
When Feliciano caught sight of Yunka and Joana kissing at the public rally in September, he had spotlights and TV cameras trained on them, exposed them, ridiculed and insulted them, then ordered police to handcuff the couple and cart them away – all while holding a microphone, his hatred amplified through the PA system.
"Those two girls have to leave here handcuffed," he proclaimed when he saw the trim, shirtless women in an embrace. "No use trying to run! Guards are headed there now. This isn't a place where anything goes. This is a house of God!"
The young women were beaten, handcuffed and jailed.
Now, for the first time in the English-speaking press, one of the young women involved in the incident is speaking out, telling her side of the story. Read on to meet Yunka Mihura, a 21-year-old accidental activist who might have just found her calling through a simple kiss with the girl she's dating.
SheWired: Hi Yunka. Thanks for chatting with me. May I ask where you were born?
Yunka Mihura: I was born in Florianopolis in Brazil, and I have lived in France and also Argentina. Currently I live in Ilhabela, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Are you actually gay? Some press reports have suggested you are straight.
Four years ago I kissed a girl for the first time – she was my best friend and neither of us had kissed someone of the same sex before. A teenage prank? Maybe. But I liked it. I like girls and boys, and I don't like labels, but labels exist, I suppose, so I guess I identify as bisexual because it is what I feel — it is not a choice. I choose not to eat meat, I choose to recycle. I choose my hair color and I choose to have tattoos. I choose the clothes I am wearing, but I did not choose my orientation. I find it is very simple: I can love a man or a woman. I feel like I don't fall in love with a gender but with a person's heart.
You went to an evangelical rally and pop concert in Brazil with about 20 friends. Are you religious?
I would define myself as having a spiritual side. I respect all religions, although I think religions should preach love, encourage us to help others, to be a good person — instead of what many fanatics do, which is issue threats and spread prejudice.
Are you very political?
I would rather not get involved with politics per se, but as many have seen, it is sometimes hard for me and my friends to stay quiet amidst so much hypocrisy, injustice and corruption today.