WALK OF FLOWERS Women protest against the culture of rape in front of the STF, in Brasília - Photo: Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil

The first echelon of Michel Temer's interim government has no women. Among the 23 names that make up the ministerial team announced on the afternoon of May 12, the date of inauguration, there is no minister. There are no blacks either. The two portions of the population – women and blacks – represent more than half of Brazilians, which is composed of 51,4% of women and 53,6% of blacks.

To further aggravate the sexist and racist scenario, Temer extinguished the special secretariats for Women's Policies, Racial Equality and Human Rights, transforming them into mere secretariats without ministry status. They answer to the Ministry of Justice and Citizenship, commanded by Alexandre de Moraes, which has much more affinity with the sphere of public security than with human rights. He was São Paulo's Secretary of Public Security during the administration of Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) and takes into account the violent conduct of the Military Police against high school students, in addition to the massacre in Osasco (SP) in August 2015, carried out by police, that killed 19 people in one night.

The political honeymoon, common in government changes, was short-lived. Michel Temer had said in his first interview as interim president (to Fantástico, on Rede Globo) that he would form a “ministry of notables”, but his Minister of Planning, Romero Jucá (PMDB-RO), fell in 12 days. The one from Transparency, Fabiano Silveira, was forced to leave on 17. Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB-RN), from Tourism, resigned after having his name mentioned in the accusation. Temer also stated that he would bring a representative of the “feminine world” (as if it were another planet) to occupy positions in Culture, a ministry that had been extinguished. Was unsuccessful.

With this profile, it was difficult to find candidates to occupy positions at the second level of the Temer government. Among invitations and polls, in 15 days, seven women said “no”, even with the mediation of Senator Marta Suplicy (PMDB-SP). In the last 37 years of federal administration, all Brazilian presidents, even João Figueiredo, the last president of the military dictatorship, had women in ministries. In the democratic period all former presidents chose ministers. Fernando Collor had one, Itamar Franco and Fernando Henrique Cardoso had two, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had 11 and Dilma Rousseff commanded 16 ministers.

The interim president's own allies criticized the lack of a female presence in the ministries. “There is my absolute protest, there should be (women on the team)”, said Senator Aécio Neves (PSDB-MG), during the vote to open the impeachment process in the Senate. “There are highly competent women in various parties, he will certainly find spaces for women to help.”

The first to accept a second-tier position in the Michel Temer government was economist Maria Silvia Bastos Marques, four days after the interim president took office. Recognized for her competence and technical efficiency, she assumed the presidency of BNDES, for the first time held by a woman. Until the end of May, only three women made up this level of government, in addition to Bastos Marques: Nara de Deus, Temer's chief of staff, Flavia Piovesan, at the Secretariat of Human Rights, and Ana Paula Vescovi, at the Secretariat of the National Treasury. This Thursday (16), a new attempt to include women in Temer's ministries went wrong. The Minister of Transparency, Oversight and Control, Torquato Jardim, has appointed his partner in a law firm to head his cabinet at the ministry. The appointment of lawyer Lilian Claessen Miranda Brandão was published in the Federal Official Gazette. Got it wrong. In addition to an obvious conflict of interest, the interim president said a few days ago that he would freeze appointments to commissioned positions.

The Minister of Transparency's new chief of staff is his partner in a law firm.

For the Secretariat of Policies for Women, Michel Temer chose sociologist and former federal deputy Fátima Pelaes (PMDB-AP), re-elected president of PMDB Mulher. Pelaes has a sad history. She was a feminist for a long time. She fought for the right to abortion. But in 2002, after suffering a serious boat accident on the Amazon River and surviving, she converted to the evangelical church. She took a stand against abortion. At a session in the Chamber of Deputies to vote on the Statute of the Unborn in May 2010, Pelaes revealed that she was born in a penitentiary, from the womb of a woman who had been abused by three men. “After a lot of work, therapy and seeking God I can speak normally. She (the mother) even thought about abortion. She saw no way out. How could an incarcerated woman go on with this pregnancy?” she said. “She couldn't do it. After I was an adult, she asked for forgiveness. Today I am here to say: life begins at conception, yes. What right do we women have to take a life?” Pelaes is also facing an investigation into the embezzlement of R$4 million in amendments.

The fact that the interim president has not bothered to bring women into the top echelon of his government demonstrates much more than a lack of political skill. It is a strong indicator that public policies for women, human rights, racial equality and the social agenda are not priorities for the temporary federal government. In terms of gender, it also means that the impeachment process not only legitimized the machismo present in Brazilian society, but also made explicit, without constraints, the sexist behavior of many parliamentarians, which is reflected in society in general. Congressman Jair Bolsonaro (PSC-RJ), the most evident of the examples, in addition to celebrating Dilma’s torturer, referred to her as “anta”. In the streets, pro-impeachment protesters were not shy about calling the elected president a “cow”, among other unpublishable curses. On the night of May 11, while the Senate was voting on the admissibility of impeachment, the Legislative Police violently repressed a demonstration by women against the coup. “It is the resumption of a perspective of exclusion and prejudice”, warns sociologist Marcia Lima, professor of Racial Inequalities at USP. “We would have to go on for decades to face prejudice and its effects. But we are going back to square one.”

FOR DEMOCRACY The end of the Special Secretariat for Policies for Women highlights the imminent loss of rights – Photo: Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil

Public Policies for women
The advances in the women's rights agenda in the last 13 years, since the Ministry of Policies for Women was created, are undeniable. One of the most important milestones is the Maria da Penha Law, of 2006, against domestic violence, a cruel and silent reality for more than one million Brazilian women, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE/2015). As a result, in ten years, the rate of homicides against women in the domestic sphere dropped by 10%, according to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea/2015). “We are going to lose everything we conquered with a lot of struggle in these 13 years. It's the biggest setback I've ever seen in the history of my country within democracy”, declares the former Minister of Policies for Women, Eleonora Menicucci.
Another key action was the change in rape legislation. Until 2009, rape was considered a “crime against customs”, that is, the “offended” in her honor was her father or husband. With Law 12.015 / 2009, the woman stopped being “property” to have rights over her body. The new law also considered all forms of sexual violence (lewd acts) to be rape, even without sexual intercourse. The penalty is increased if the victim is a teenager or vulnerable, such as people with disabilities.

In Brazil, a woman is raped every 11 minutes, according to statistics from the Brazilian Public Security Forum. There are 131 rapes a day, on average. Confronting this reality remains extremely threatened. Bill 5069/2013, authored by Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ), is being processed in Congress, which interferes with the right to terminate a pregnancy in the event of rape. Under the PL, the rape victim must be obliged to undergo a forensic examination to access legal abortion, submitting to embarrassment. It also indicates severe punishment for professionals who help the victim, including when “instructing”, “guiding” or “giving assistance” to the woman. The project is signed by 13 men, among them André Moura (PMDB-RJ), government leader in the Chamber. “We cannot have the mixture between the State and religiosity”, says federal deputy Maria do Rosário (PT-RS), responsible for the bill that changed the crime of rape. “The secular State is the guarantee that all people are respected. You cannot impose your philosophical perspective,” she adds.

Just over ten days after the impeachment vote, Brazil watched online the abuse suffered by a teenager in Rio de Janeiro. The case demonstrated that the culture of rape is very present in the country. It inspired women and men to take to the streets indignant at the brutal crime. To the same extent, it demonstrated the fascist force that lurks in society, with trials against the girl (for her clothing or behavior) and requests for the death penalty and castration for the suspects.

The fact that a woman held the most powerful position in Brazil is an undeniable symbolic legacy that is under threat. For former Minister of Social Development Tereza Campello, one of the important gains was greater female autonomy. Women began to say “I can”. But the new government can bring it all down. “Although we have made great strides in building an agenda for women's rights, this is still so fragile that it can be reversed. I feel attacked as a woman. It's very hard,” says Campello.

It demonstrates the vulnerability of women in Brazilian society. “All women are vulnerable in this process: the poor, the black, the indigenous, the lesbian, the disabled, the young, the elderly. All of them”, declares the former Minister of Women Eleonora Menicucci. It is not enough for the interim president, Michel Temer, to say that he was the first to create a Women's Police Station, when he was secretary of Public Security in São Paulo, 31 years ago.

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