Language is not neutral. Not only does it reproduce and legitimise socially constructed stereotypes and stigmas, but it also produces them, and is a very central element in the realisation or violation of human rights, depending on how it is used.
Given the mission of the Federal Public Defender's Office (DPU) to defend the rights of people in vulnerable conditions and to promote and defend human rights, it is essential that in all its actions, whether in legal documents, public notices and its various institutional communication channels, among others, the language is in line with its institutional values.
With this in mind, the "Guide to Inclusive Language and the Promotion of Human Rights in the Federal Public Defenders’ Office" was created as a tool to guide civil servants, defenders, outsourced workers and trainees in using the appropriate language for an institution that defends human rights.
Although the publication's main objective is to educate internal audiences, the DPU believes that it will be useful for any person or public or private institution that has an interest in the subject. "That's the purpose of these guidebooks, to familiarise the public with these discussions, to provide an introduction to these issues in a way that sensitises everyone to them," states federal public defender Roberta Alvim.
About the Project
The Guidebooks Project is made up of various thematic modules to be published gradually by the Federal Public Defenders' Office (DPU). In this first series, language for the fundamental right to health was addressed. The topics covered in this area were HIV and AIDS, Hansen's Disease, and mental health.
The publications provide contextual information on each of the themes, showing how the conceptions surrounding them have evolved over time.
"Language is forged in historical process and the advances in the field of health, as well as the struggles of social movements, people with HIV and AIDS, Hansen’s Disease and the field of mental health have contributed to the discussion of stereotypes and bias arising from misconceptions and prejudices about these issues. Based on these discussions, the terminologies used were questioned and new ones proposed that encompass the integrity of the individual and respect for their rights," says Aline Baima, the journalist who produced the texts.
The project was coordinated by the then Secretary for Strategic Actions, Roberta Pires Alvim. The research, texts and editing were carried out by journalist Aline Baima. Spelling was proofread by Christane Brandão Teles.
The guidebooks also had the contribution of external institutions in reviewing the content: Akemi Kamimura and Marcelo Araújo de Freitas (consultants for the Pan American Health Organisation - PAHO - and the World Health Organisation - WHO); Artur Custódio de Sousa (National coordinator of the Movement for the Reintegration of People Affected by Hansen's Disease - MORHAN and Member of the Health Surveillance Commission of the National Health Council - Ministry of Health); Monalisa Pontes Xavier (Associate Professor of the Psychology Course at UFDPAR and PPGCOM at UFPI; teaching coordinator of the Piauí Academic Mental Health League - LASMENPI); Guilherme Augusto Souza Prado (Assistant Professor of the Psychology Course and PPGPSI at UFDPAR; deputy academic coordinator of LASMENPI); Samara Eduarda Martins (LASMENPI - UFDPAR - General Coordinator); Gabriela Garcia de Carvalho Laguna (UFBA - LASMENPI - Teaching Coordinator); Ilaini Bruna Melo de Carvalho (LASMENPI - UFDPAR - Research Coordinator) and Rodrigo Mendes Moura Honório (LASMENPI - UFDPAR - Communication Coordinator).
Source: Defensoria Pública da União (DPU), Brazil