Brazil’s silent abortion dilemma

September 30, 2014

Julia Carneiro – BBC News, 09/30/2014

The risks faced by Brazilian women seeking an abortion has been highlighted by the brutal death of a 27-year-old woman.

Abortion is only legal under the most exceptional circumstances in Brazil – a traditionally Catholic country.

A recent poll suggested around 79% of the population opposed legalisation but figures suggest that one in five women in the country have had an abortion by the age of 40.

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Brazilian president approves sexual violence law, despite criticism from the Catholic church

August 2, 2013

Associated Press, 08/01/2013

President Dilma Rousseff has approved a controversial law that guarantees women who’ve been victims of sexual violence access to medical and psychological treatment.

The measure came under fire from the Catholic church because it guarantees access to emergency contraceptives, like the so-called morning after pill.

Church officials had called on Rousseff to veto that article, as well as one stipulating abused women be informed of their right to an abortion. The procedure is illegal in Brazil except for in a few cases, including the rape of the mother.

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Gender equality pays off in Brazil

March 15, 2013

Otaviano Canuto – Huffington Post, 03/07/2013

Brazil’s success in reducing poverty and income inequality has been widely reported in recent years. What is less known is that there has also been progress in lessening gender inequality in the past two decades. Illiteracy rates for women 15 years old and above came down from 20.3 percent in 1991 to 9.8 percent in 2008. The share of the female labor force with tertiary education increased from 7.4 percent in 1992 to 11.9 percent in 2008, and now is higher than males. Government policies — some of them implemented in cooperation with the private sector — have also been addressing needs of mothers, providing health care before and during pregnancy and at birth, and child care and education. On gender-based violence, the enactment of the Maria da Penha Law has already brought some results.

Notwithstanding these milestones, a lot remains to be done. For instance, gender gaps in access to formal employment and market income still persist in Brazil. Even though there has been an increase in the share of women employed in the nonagricultural sector, their comparative advantage in education has not been reflected in relative market wages — despite the average higher skill level of the female labor force. In 2008, women’s wages were only 84 percent of men’s, and the gap increases at higher levels of education. Among those with 12 or more years of schooling, women earned merely 58 percent of men’s salaries. For the most part, the wage gap appears to reflect discriminatory practices and social norms. Brazilian women, even those working full time, continue to bear the brunt of time allocated to family chores.

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Assault on women’s reproductive rights and gender equality at Rio+20

June 21, 2012

Rebecca Lefton –, 06/21/2012

Rio +20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, is renewing international conversations about how to simultaneously address poverty, protect the environment, and maintain balanced economic growth.  If progress is to be made, the agenda must reflect that achieving gender equality is intimately tied to achieving these other goals, as well as being a goal in and of itself.  But as current negotiations stand, Rio risks losing an opportunity to embrace and strengthen the link between women’s rights and gender equality and sustainable development

A draft agreement was reached on Tuesday after lengthy and painstaking negotiations. But many are disappointed, including those who support women’s equality.  Country negotiators have been working over the last several months to complete an agreement to bring before official high-level negotiations that began on June 20. In the process the text ballooned from an original 19 page document to hundreds of pages. But yesterday’s slimmed down version of 49 pages represents the lowest common denominator. Appallingly, women’s reproductive rights and references to gender equality were a casualty.

The United States, Norway, and women’s NGOs that organized through the Women’s Major Group fought hard to include language ensuring reproductive rights for women and affirming gender equality in the Rio text. However, the Holy See (the Vatican) led an opposition that ultimately prevailed in removing key sections for gender equality in the text.  The result is that language ensuring reproductive rights were completely dropped from the text.

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Getting women’s rights on the agenda

June 19, 2012

Sandeep BathalaNew Security Beat, 06/19/2012

Here we are on my second day of side events at Rio+20 and the Aspen Institute, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and the United Nations Foundation convened a high-level moderated dialogue this morning to raise the profile of human development, gender, and reproductive health at the main conference.

Rio+20 is an unprecedented opportunity to draw attention to sustainable development and the role women’s rights and voices play in it. The Aspen/IPPF/UN Foundation event was timely as some negotiators are questioning the link between women and sustainable development in the 11th hour instead of reaffirming the commitments made 20 years ago at international conferences in Rio, Cairo, and Beijing.

High-level leaders, including Gro Harlem Brundtland (Former Prime Minister of Norway), Musimbi Kanyoro (President and Chief Executive Office of the Global Fund for Women), Tewodros Melesse (Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation), Mary Robinson (Former President of Ireland and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice), and Tim Wirth (President of the United Nations Foundation), spoke to the role of women’s empowerment and family planning in the global discussion of sustainable development.

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Rio+20: Sustainable development needs women’s empowerment, UN official says

June 19, 2012

United Nations – 6/18/2012

Sustainable development will not be achieved without empowering women, the head of the United Nations agency tasked with advancing gender equality said today, adding that the importance of their participation must be reflected in all aspects of the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).“We cannot afford to leave women marginalized,” the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Michelle Bachelet, told reporters today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “This is not sustainable. This social exclusion of women is not only hurting women, it is hurting all of us.”

On Friday, the responsibility for the negotiations on the outcome document was handed over to the Brazilian Government, which holds the Presidency of Rio+20. The South American nation has since presented a shorter consolidated text for countries to work on, and indicated that the consultation process on the document is expected to conclude on 18 June. It will then be put forward for adoption by Member States, when they meet from 20 to 22 June.

In her comments, Ms. Bachelet said that the outcome document must highlight women’s roles throughout the entire text, as their participation permeates all aspects of sustainable development, including agriculture, education, environmental management and decision-making, among others.

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Brazil’s strong stance on Women’s rights

April 24, 2012

Julia E. Sweig – The Daily Beast, 04/24/2012

A 2010 photograph of a dozen women surrounding a newly inaugurated president might well depict the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. But these 60-somethings share more than the bonds of suffrage. They share a history of suffering and survival: they are the women whom the Brazilian military in the 1970s jailed and tortured at São Paulo’s Tiradentes prison along with their friend, comrade, and now president of the world’s sixth-largest economy, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff.

Standing at the center of the beaming group is a curly-haired woman in a purple silk blouse, a lifelong women’s-rights advocate and activist, once a member of Brazil’s Communist Party, and now the cabinet member and minister who leads President Rousseff’s Secretariat for Women’s Affairs: Eleonora Menicucci. Recently dean of her faculty at the University of São Paulo, she talks with the authority of a professor, has the expertise of a world-class political scientist (her research on women’s health is highly respected), and conveys the savvy of a political activist who’s seen it all. Menicucci is a lifelong feminist. She now runs a ministry in Brasília whose top priority she describes as an “obsession” of hers and President Rousseff’s: ending violence against women.

I met Minister Menicucci during her recent visit to Washington for a meeting of the Inter-American Commission of Women at the Organization of American States (OAS). That same week, the U.S. Congress had taken up reauthorization of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, a law once supported by bipartisan majorities but that today’s GOP leadership is angling to defund.

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