11 Things You Won't Believe Were Banned in Brazil

Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art-meets-dance
Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art-meets-dance | © Che_co / Pixabay
Sarah Brown

Changing authoritative power in Brazil throughout the ages has led to several disagreements, primarily in regard to what should or should not be allowed. While some restrictions are still in force and make perfect sense, others are surprising. Here are 11 things you won’t believe were banned in Brazil.

Women’s Football

By 1940, there were at least 10 women’s football clubs competing in Rio de Janeiro and the sport’s popularity among women continued to grow. The president at the time, Getúlio Vargas, gave the go ahead to Article 54, which stated that females could not practice sports that were deemed to be incompatible with their femininity and their reproductive organs. All-female teams were broken up and any future attempts to regroup were extinguished. The prohibition was only lifted in 1979.

Brazil’s women’s football team playing during the 2016 Olympics


Today it’s one of Brazil’s biggest cultural references, but it hasn’t always been that way. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Old Republic thought samba tarnished Brazil’s image due to its origins from the marginalized Africans living in Brazil after the abolishment of slavery. As a result, the police monitored and punished anyone playing or dancing samba in the streets. This changed in 1917 when “Pelo Telefone” was released by Donga, a famous sambist, and brought samba to Brazil’s mainstream music scene.

Samba is more than just music; it’s culture with its own dance and typical costumes


Capoeira was developed by slaves in Brazil who practiced martial arts in secret by disguising the act as folk dance. After slavery was abolished, the government became concerned that the former slaves would band together and revolt, so banned capoeira in the late 19th century. It was later recognized as a form of dance and performance in 1937 when the ban was finally lifted.

Capoeira, a past martial art developed by the enslaved Africans turned dance and performance

Being topless

Topless sunbathing in Brazil is deemed a legal offense according to the Penal Code as it is considered an act of indecent exposure. Although going topless on the beach is illegal, public breastfeeding is permitted.

Topless on the beaches in Brazil is banned, except at certain designated nudist beaches

Using mobile phones in banks

It is forbidden to use mobile phones inside banks in almost all municipalities in Brazil, and those that don’t abide may need to pay a fine – although the security guards tend to issue warnings before imposing such rules. This regulation is designed to protect bank customers from being robbed when they leave the agency.

Using mobile phones in banks is not permitted

Inner city advertisements

In São Paulo, you won’t see billboards in the city. That’s because the municipality banned them, claiming them to be distracting to drivers. However, this only applies inside the metropolis; it is legal to advertise on the outskirts and beyond.

Inner city billboards, like this one, are banned in Sao Paulo

The bikini

Another one of Brazil’s cultural symbols was once banned in the country by the eccentric president, Janio Quadros, who was in power for just eight months in 1961. When he was voted president, he decided to ban the use of bikinis on the beach as they were deemed indecent. However, icons such as Helô Pinheiro (who inspired the song, “The Girl from Ipanema”) and Leila Diniz, who posed in a bikini on the beach while pregnant, among others, became symbols of feminine liberty and helped strengthen the bikinis position in popular culture.

The bikini, a cultural symbol in Brazil, was once seen as offensive

Wearing helmets inside

Wearing helmets or anything that covers the face inside is forbidden in most states. This is to prevent armed robberies and allow police to identify individuals through security cameras.

For security reasons, helmets are banned inside closed spaces


You may notice that Brazil doesn’t have many casinos. This is because gambling is strictly forbidden due to government concerns that they couldn’t monitor cash flows in such venues. This law was put into place in 1946, so while physical gambling is prohibited, online gambling is legal.

Gambling is illegal in Brazil

Tanning salons

Brazil was the first country to ban tanning salons, putting the prohibition in place in 2011. This applies to just cosmetic purposes and it can still be used for medical treatment, such as soothing the symptoms of psoriasis.

Getting bronzed on the beach is fine, just not in a tanning salon

Music by Gil Gilberto and Caetano Veloso

During the dictatorship in Brazil between the 1960s and 1980s, the government clamped down on pop culture by censoring or banning certain songs they felt threatened their power and authority. Gil Gilberto and Caetano Veloso were some of the musicians affected by this, leading to their eventual exile.

Gilberto Gil is one of Brazil’s best-known musicians

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