Women in Brazil: Part 1 – Isabella Renata and Juliana Bastos, Brazil

There are still many problems in our world arising from gender inequality. The voices of those who speak out on the equality of women are often not taken seriously or silenced. We should change this: we need meaningful dialogue on the status of women as a matter of social priority.  We must reclaim “feminism”, which has  unfairly  become somewhat of a “dirty”word. Feminism is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. As long as gender inequality prevails, we have the obligation to explore feminism.

Feminism and its meaning

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After reading the article entitled “How far can history reach?” recently posted on United Youth Journalists (see link to the article on the “Learn more” section of this article), we can better understand how systematic power relations work in our society.

Historically, power and gender have always been intertwined. Men have been seen as fighters, workers and learners. Women have been narrowly typified as submissive homemakers, wives and child bearers who are unable to work, or study.  These attitudes persist in this age, and they still hurt women today. Then, many people might ask: “If this was created centuries ago, are the men of today guilty of that? What do they owe women?” To explore this, we need to first remember that all of this revolves around a system, which will take time to change. Many men don’t agree with these ideas either,and people of all genders want change, but systems still exist independently of the individual’s opinions on them.

Feminism is in fact about equality, but the word equality can be interpreted in different ways – for example, laws that help women to deal with gender-based violence do not secure men – but are not a privilege of women either. It’s something necessary to help women targeted for their gender. Feminism acknowledges that the system as a whole is already unfair and unequal to women and other groups, and steps need to be taken so we can fix this gap in our society, which can include enacting legislature.

Women in Brazil

Brazil offers a good example of what we need to look seriously at gender inequality. The statistics of violence against women in Brazil are very worrying – offenses are often committed by husbands, boyfriends and even family members. Once every three minutes a woman faces violence in our country, and in the last ten years, there were 43.7 thousand murders – an increase of 230% in the period 2005-2012. These statistics were compiled in August 2013, by the “Mapa da Violência – Homicídios de Mulheres no Brasil” (Violence Map – Homicides of Women in Brazil), a study from the Brazilian Center of Latin-American Studies. This information was based on statistics from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice in Brazil. Also according to the Violence Map (2012), Brazil is ranked at 7th place for the murder of women internationally.

Many activists link the increasing incidence of violence against women to continued sexist attitudes in a society that teaches or spreads the idea of women being ‘owned’ by men, or always taken in the context of their relationships with men. This often means holding the women responsible for the offenses inflicted upon them.

Abortion in Brazil

Abortion of a pregnancy for any reason other than rape or a medically life-threatening situation is illegal in Brazil. Abortion is too often seen as “murder”, which is wrong scientifically as the neural circuits responsible for conscious awareness are not developed. Therefore if the process of abortion is made before the twelfth week of pregnancy it cannot be considered murder – it is the act of stopping a life from developing in the first place.

Another argument against abortion is the pain supposedly caused to the fetus. However it is known that the brain structures necessary for conscious experience of pain do not develop until 29-30 weeks. Hence, the process is not painful to the fetus in meaningful terms.

We cannot talk about this topic looking only at what science says about it because its biggest impact is in the social life. The pregnant woman is the only one who can assess whether she wants a child, knowing how i could impact her life. It is important to remember that in Brazil, maternity is seen as an inherent quality of a woman, with childbirth being seen as one of the biggest achievements of a woman’s life. Abortion is seen as reprehensible following these ideas made by the patriarchal society that tries over and over again to put women ‘in their place’.

This issue intersects with others regarding wealth and awareness: poor women don’t have much access to birth control or sex education; some women can’t take birth control pills because of the effects it can have on their body (smokers for example cannot take such pills); and in general, there are some crucial facts many women don’t know: for example, if a woman is taking pills for anxiety or depression or even antibiotics, there is a chance that the birth control pill will become ineffective.

Legalising abortion  would be a step towards gender equality as it is the woman who bears the brunt of an unwanted pregnancy – especially when, as is often the case in Brazil, the men refuse to take responsibility. This kind of act is far easier on the part of the biological father than the woman’s having an abortion, and carries no legal repercussions.

Legalising abortion should be accompanied by comprehensive sex education so that women are aware of contraceptive methods such as the pill. Such contraceptives should be made widely available.  Even then, women might still have unwanted pregnancies; the government should provide economic and psychological support in such situations. Uruguay is a good example of a country which gives such support and where abortion has been legalized: since then the number of abortions has actually dropped by 30%. Legalising abortion also reduces the chances of women dying as illegal abortion often involves undergoing the procedure in the hands of unqualified persons in unhygienic environments.

All this illustrates how feminism ultimately leads to aims which benefit all society. This is our first article for the series “Women in Brazil”. If you want to read more about these issues, don’t worry, we’ll write more, focusing on many other issues such as rape, consent, and transmisogyny. Meanwhile, you can check out the “Learn more” section, which has some links and information in both English and Portuguese regarding these topics.

Learn more about it:

Relations of power in our society; “How far can history reach”, by Kaz Tomozawa
Media Smarts, Women and Girls
Blog Everyday Feminism:

Studies on Feminicide
Statistics of violence against woman in Brazil
Abortion in Brazil
Blog Lugar de Mulher

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