Metro Weekly

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro accuses WHO of encouraging children to masturbate and be gay

Claims appear to be misrepresentations of advice from a WHO handbook on sex education

Jair Bolsonaro – Photo: Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wrote, and then later deleted, a Facebook post in which he claimed he would not follow advice from the World Health Organization because it encourages children to masturbate and be gay.

Taking to Facebook, Bolsonaro wrote, claiming to quote from a WHO handbook: “This is the World Health Organization whose advice on coronavirus some people want me to follow. Should we follow their education policy guidelines, too? For children zero to four years old: satisfaction and pleasure when touching their bodies, masturbation…. For children four to six years old: a positive gender identity… masturbation in early childhood, same-sex relations…. Nine to 12 years old: first sexual experience.”

The origin of the information appears to be a 2010 handbook called “Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe,” published by Germany’s Federal Centre for Health Education and the WHO’s European office. But some people appear to have cherry-picked and misrepresented the information in that handbook and posted wild-eyed claims on social media, which Bolsonaro then parroted in his own post, according to AFP.

Though not its main focus the handbook briefly explains that young children are typically discovering their bodies, and tells parents and educators that behavior such as touching oneself and curiosity about sexuality are normal in kids. But it does not specifically encourage masturbation or attempt to indoctrinate children into homosexuality.

One of Bolsonaro’s advisers, Arthur Weintraub, made similar allegations in a tweet of his own, which appears to have sparked Bolsonaro’s rant.

Weintraub tweeted: “The WHO has guidelines recommending children zero to four years old be taught about ‘masturbation,’ ‘pleasure and enjoyment,’ ‘touching one’s body’ and ‘gender ideology.’ Is that right?”

Much like U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro, an avid social media user, frequently floats right-wing talking points on his Twitter in order to stir up his supporters.

Bolsonaro has regularly been at odds with the WHO since the COVID-19 pandemic began, arguing that social distancing measures are harming the economy and infringing on people’s freedom.

He has dismissed COVID-19 as a “little flu,” and recently fired Health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta for advocating for social distancing and stay-at-home measures to “flatten the curve” of the epidemic and avoid overburdening hospitals and health care workers.

Read more:

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ICE releases two gay Cuban asylum seekers living with HIV from detention amid COVID-19 pandemic

Asian American groups and LGBTQ allies demand response to anti-Asian harassment amid COVID-19 pandemic

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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