The future of women in Brazil

<div class="at-above-post addthis_tool" data-url=""></div>The Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro is well known for his controversial phrases regarding women and other minorities. In an interview to RedeTV in 2016, Bolsonaro said...
Ele Nao protest in Brazil
Photo by: Neusa Cadore / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) / Source: flickr

The Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro is well known for his controversial phrases regarding women and other minorities.

In an interview to RedeTV in 2016, Bolsonaro said that he believed women should be paid less because they get pregnant. News portal G1 has reported on how he has also been condemned by the Supreme Court of Justice for telling a congresswoman that he would not rape her not because of the act itself but becauseshe was “too ugly”.

During the presidential race, women took to the streets to manifest against the then-candidate, using the hashtag #EleNão (#NotHim) in what was considered to be the largest political manifestation of women  in Brazil, as reported by BBC Brazil. The protests happened in 114 Brazilian cities, as well as all around the globe and had immense media repercussion.

But what does a Bolsonaro government actually mean for Brazilian women?

Public policy for women

Bolsonaro is one of the authors of a law project that revokes the current compulsory treatment of victims of sexual violence by hospitals and clinics, as discussed by revista Época. He believes it is part of a plan to legalize abortion in the country. The president-elect also opposes the anti-femicide law sanctioned by  former president Dilma Roussef – according to The Atlantic, he has declared that women should “stop whining; stop with this story of femicide”.

Bolsonaro’s new Ministry for Women, Family and Human Rights could also represent a step back for women’s rights and freedoms, especially for the appointment of Damares Alves as miniser. The lawyer and evangelical pastor has declared in a 2016 video published by her church: “It is time for the church to occupy the nation, to show the nation what the church stands for. It is time for the church to govern.”

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Alves is fiercely anti-abortion and against feminist movements as she believes that those manipulate data on women’s deaths due to abortion to create a “culture of death”, as stated in 2013. In this, she seems to be in line with the new president, who in October declared on Twitter that any proposals to legalise abortion in Brazil would be vetoed and any organisations that supported the cause would not receive federal funding.

A Bolsonaro-supportive congress

The 2018 elections have also yielded a good result for conservative politics beyond Bolsonaro’s victory. According to the magazine Época, this congress is the most conservative of the last decade – including a growth in the evangelical caucus. In practice, this means that law projects that were previously unlikely to be approved have gained new life.

This is the case, for example, of the Statute of the Unborn, which grants the right to life from the moment of conception, making abortion illegal in any case. It is also the case of the Statute for the Family, which states that the only legally recognised family is the one formed by a heterosexual partnership and eventual children.

All these circumstances demonstrate that a Bolsonaro government will be damaging to the human rights of women, taking on positions considered to be anti-women’s rights, especially on issues such as abortion and gender violence.

#NotHim: women’s ongoing resistance

Words in the Bucket reported on Bolsonaro’s unpopularity with women since before the electoral period begun. During the elections, a Facebook group “Women United Against Bolsonaro” reached over 2 million members (after the elections, the number has risen to 3.6 million). Along this line, the #NotHim manifestations showcase the large opposition of women towards the new president.

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A student active in the #NotHim protests told Words in the Bucket: “It is hard to say what the new government will mean to women, but the first word that crosses my mind is ‘setback’”. She also said that while she feels anguished, she has never wanted to fight back this much. “It is my hope that other women feel like me, and that we are all committed to resist and fight”, she concludes.

After Bolsonaro’s election, women remain active on social media to discuss ways of keeping up such strong political action. The future of women’s rights in Brazil seems to be hanging in the balance. But although both the Executive and the Legislative seem to be moving against liberation movements, there is still a lot of resistance from the population.

As reported in The Guardian, marches organised on the 30th of October to reiterate the messages of women and other minorities in the country were attended by thousands of people. On social media, the hashtag #EleNão remains active and has been used to criticise decisions made by the president elect and his future cabinet.

While much remains uncertain, Bolsonaro’s reputation among women does not seem to have changed. Furthermore, it is clear that they will keep on resisting his government in the same way they resisted his election.

Joana Midena Perrone

Joana Perrone is a PhD candidate in Latin American Studies at the University of Oxford, where she researches feminicide in Brazil. She has a BA in International Relations from the University of Sussex and an MSt in Women's Studies from the University of Oxford. Her main research interests are gender-based violence and human rights, especially in Latin America. You can find her on twitter at @jollyjellyfish_
    2 Comments on this post.
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    LA GUERRE DES POPULISMES CONTRE LES FEMMES : état des lieux – Révolution Féministe
    7 September 2019 at 9:27 am
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    Francine Sporenda : La guerre des populismes contre les femmes : état des lieux – Le blog de Christine Delphy
    30 September 2019 at 10:02 am
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