A mum and daughter were confronted by an official and found their hired buggy vandalised after being mistaken for lesbians while posting for a snap on a Brazilian beach.
Marileia and Karina Ramos got a grilling from an official from the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, the administrative arm of the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, after receiving a complaint a lesbian couple was flaunting their relationship on the beach in front of families with young children.
The incident took place at Sueste Beach in Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha archipelago on December 11.
The mother and daughter, who were hugging for the photo, said they were initially confused when they were first approached by the official, who had received a complaint “of a ‘lewd act’ between two women”.
According to daughter Karina, from the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, she was with her mother, husband and stepfather when the official approached them and spoke to them for about three minutes.
“He wasn’t rude, but he came asking, ‘Do you know the rules of the (Fernando de Noronha Marine National) park?’ and we thought we might have done something wrong, like swimming in a forbidden area,” Karina told local media.
“Then he said, ‘It’s because I’ve received a complaint from some people up there over a ‘lewd act’ between two women’. No one understood.”
According to Karina, her mum then realised the “act” could have been when they were lying down on the sand hugging as they posed for a photo, which was taken some five minutes before their verbal dressing-down.
Karina said her mother informed the official they were mother and daughter after which he sheepishly told them to forget what had happened.
The daughter suspects the complaint may have been motivated by bigotry, telling local media: “I realised at the time that it was because of prejudice or homophobia.
“We’d been travelling for six days, both with our husbands, and there’d been no problem. When we said we were mother and daughter, I saw that he got all embarrassed.”
Karina told local media they remained on the beach for some 15 minutes and left to find the front windscreen of their hired buggy smashed.
The feeling we got was of fear when we saw the smashed buggy. And what if it had been just me and my mum, like on previous occasions?” she said.
“Maybe I’ve only gone through this situation a couple of times in my life, but if we were a couple, what would be the problem? Can’t gay people go to Noronha?”
The company which provides tourist infrastructure to the archipelago, EcoNoronha, has since got in touch with Karina to express its regret at what happened.
Police are also investigating a complaint later filed by Karina about the incident.