The campaign to impeach Brazil’s President is viciously sexist

Marc Hertzman – The New York Magazine, 04/22/2016

On Sunday, Brazil’s lower house (the Chamber of Deputies) voted to proceed with impeachment hearings against Dilma Rousseff, the nation’s first female president, by an overwhelming 2:1 majority. The case now moves to the Senate, which is expected to vote on Rousseff’s ouster by May 17. Much like in the U.S., both houses are overwhelmingly male. And just like in the U.S., the treatment of the country’s most prominent female politician is largely a function of sexism.

The stated reason for Rousseff’s impeachment is her alleged misappropriation of funds in an effort to cover budget gaps and boost confidence in the economy (and her administration). The accusations come from a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), that has uncovered a dizzying array of malfeasance at nearly every level of government.

So the proceedings against Rousseff might not seem so remarkable, if not for the mind-blowing contradictions involved. Brazil’s previous two presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Rousseff’s mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both faced numerous similar — in some cases, more serious — charges (17 counts against Cardoso, 34 for Silva), none of which prompted impeachment hearings.

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Obligatory voting, socialism and corruption: Brazilians tell us what they think about Rouseff’s re-election

The Guardian, 10/29/2014

A woman, being re-elected in a traditionally sexist Latin country as ours, first of all means that we can learn to be a little less prejudiced. Secondly, but no less important, it means that Brazil has decided to be more inclusive. The last 12 years have seen huge advancements for the country: we have left UN’s hunger map and have brought nearly 50 million people into the middle classes. This is the real impact of a leftist government – underprivileged people can now plan to go to university (public universities in Brazil are 100% free and the Labour government has built almost 200 of them). There are more schools and hospitals spread around the country than ever before.

Today, around 56 million people claim benefits and some 12 millions have given them up in the past years because they felt they no longer needed this government support. This means that many people in low paid jobs were able to go back to school, better themselves, make plans for the future – which of course makes all the difference! People who used to live from hand to mouth can now plan to buy a house through government programmes, can get a decent education and move up in life.

We cannot deny that there’s been corruption, there’s been embezzlement and white collar crimes. But to believe that the right-wing candidate was going to be the one to end it is childish and naive! He himself is involved in many corruption scandals and it’s hard to see why he’d do anything about it! Corruption is part of the political game and only a reform in the system would make it possible to end it – and this has never been in the right-wing agenda, but Dilma has already said she plans to have a referendum to know what people want on that matter.

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Brazil’s silent abortion dilemma

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

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

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

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

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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