Women against the extreme right in Brazil – the importance of global feminist movements

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On the 29th of September, tens of thousands of women gathered in what has been recognised as the biggest women’s demonstration of Brazil’s history. These women took the streets under the slogan #EleNão (#NotHim) to protest against Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right presidential candidate known for his sexist, racist and homophobic comments. Protests took place in 70 Brazilian cities and about ten foreign localities, encouraging between 100,000 and almost a million participants in São Paulo and between 50,000 and 500,000 in Rio de Janeiro to participate (estimates vary depending on sources).

This Sunday, Jair Bolsonaro, far-right candidate of Brazil’s Social Liberal Party, is facing Fernando Haddad on the decisive second round of Brazil presidential elections. He won the first round on the 7th of October with a 47% of the votes, and all the polls are pointing at him as a winner for the second round as well. Bolsonaro has stated numerous misogynist, homophobic and racist statements, comparing same-sex marriage to paedophilia and calling all immigrants “scum”. He also once told Congresswoman Mario do Rosario that she “did not deserve” to be raped because she was ugly, and has stated that he is not against women receiving lower salaries than men for the same job if they become pregnant.

Tension and violent acts started to increase in Brazil even before the first round elections were held. Numerous physical and verbal attacks, inspired by the candidate’s hate speech were reported to the authorities in the months previous to the elections. Among them, particularly notable and terrifying was the case of a woman assaulted for wearing an “Ele Não” t-shirt, by three men who drew a swastika in her stomach with a knife.

Fear about the spread of these kind of actions and an increase of crimes motivated by prejudices, together with the need to stand for women and minorities’ rights, were the reasons that encouraged Brazilian women to get together and organise against the far-right candidate in the Women United Against Bolsonaro Movement. It all started with a Facebook page, created on August 30th, with the aim of uniting Brazilian women against sexism, racism and other types of prejudices represented by Bolsonaro. The page has now more than four million members and was the principal tool to prepare the massive protests held during the last months in the country against the candidate and the antidemocratic ideas that he represents.  

Even though this movement has proved that Brazilian women are strong, empowered and highly organised, what is really new about it is that it has been amplified through social media, as Brazilian women have been organising and fighting for their rights for decades. In fact, this movement draws on years of Brazilian women’s mobilisation, fighting for social causes and human rights in the country. Black women in Brazil have continuously worked and campaigned for the right to land and decent working and living conditions for their families and communities. It is a reality, then, that even though sexism, racism and prejudice might win Brazil’s 2018 elections this Sunday, the strength and power of the Brazilian feminist movement cannot be stopped.

Brazil is just one among the many examples of feminist causes that have caught the international attention and support from feminist movements around the world. Very notorious was also the recent case of Brett Kavanaugh, allegedly accused of sexual misconduct, which gathered women around the world standing together against sexual violence. These feminist movements have been growing in the past few years, creating a strong international network of women fighting together against sexism, whose importance in the international sphere has proved to be fundamental for the progression towards women’s rights. 

At JAN Trust, we stand against discourses that promote prejudices and stereotypes and harm minority communities. Our organisation wants to highlight the importance of having political leaders that encourage respect and tolerance as key values to our societies. As a women’s charity, we stand in solidarity with women and minorities in Brazil and around the world and we campaign against the spread of hate speech and violent acts based on prejudices.

If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

About JAN Trust

JAN Trust (www.jantrust.org) is a multi award winning not for profit organisation formed in the late 1980′s. We are based in London and cater for women and youth from disadvantaged and marginalised communities. Our work and services are delivered locally, nationally and internationally. Our aim is to create positive and active citizens of society by educating, empowering and encouraging women and youth. We are dedicated to the cause of combating poverty, discrimination, abuse and social exclusion among Black, Asian, minority ethnic, refugee and asylum seeking (BAMER) women. JAN Trust is making a real difference in improving the lives of communities; promoting human and women's rights as well as community cohesion. We provide a range of services and our work has been recognised by a variety of dignitaries. Check out our website for statements from some of our supporters: http://www.jantrust.org/what-people-say
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