Brazil’s Lula’s Women’s Day measures target failures

SAO PAULO — Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Wednesday announced measures aimed at promoting and protecting women after years of failure in their cause, blamed in part on the rise of far-right forces.

At a ceremony in the capital, Brazil, Lula unveiled a package of more than 25 measures, the most significant of which is a bill that would guarantee equal pay for men and women doing the same work.

He also announced that he would spend 372 million reais ($72 million) to build domestic violence shelters and 100 million reais ($19 million) for science projects led by women.

The president expressed his gratitude for the votes of women who helped him defeat Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 elections. And on Wednesday, he blamed his predecessor for political decisions that harmed Brazilian women.

“The previous government lacked respect when it decided to destroy public policies, cut basic budget resources, and tacitly motivated violence against women,” the president said alongside his ministers at the International Women’s Day celebration.

A record number of 11 of Lula’s 37 ministers are women. During most of his administration, Bolsonaro had only two female ministers.

Many of Lula’s announced measures, including spending on shelters and scientific projects, were enacted by decree. But others require congressional approval, and since Lula’s legislative base has yet to be solidified, it’s hard to gauge whether he will have enough votes, said Beatriz Rey, a senior researcher at Brazil’s Center for Congressional Studies. Rio de Janeiro.

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“It’s possible that nonpartisan support will help the administration on this particular issue of pay equity,” Rey said in a phone interview.

According to advocates, Bolsonaro’s government’s policies were in line with the spread of extremism in Brazil, which together contributed to the deterioration of gender equality.

– Bolsonaro was not the reason for this; he was a symptom of something larger, which is the consolidation and rise of the extreme right in Brazilian society,” said Samira Bueno, executive director of the non-profit Brazilian Forum on Public Security, which published a report last week that 18.4 in 2022 percentage increase in all forms of gender-based violence.

Bueno told The Associated Press that such forces have gathered over the past decade, citing the No School Party movement, which has encouraged parents and children to report teachers who try to teach sex education and women’s rights.

And Bolsonaro’s loosening of gun control has encouraged domestic violence, Bueno said. In 2022, 5.1% of women said they had been threatened with a knife or firearm, compared to 3.1% in 2021, according to a recent report from her group.

“This rise did not happen by chance. This is because federal government policy allows more civilians to own and carry firearms,” Bueno said.

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On January 1, Lula’s first day on the job, he revoked some of Bolsonaro’s decrees to loosen gun control. His government also required civilians to register their weapons with the federal police by a deadline set at the end of the month; by mid-February, only a fraction had done so as the pro-gun lobby aligned with Bolsonaro pushed back on the registration effort.

Campaigners and civil society also expect Lula to restart policies and programs that worked before but were affected by budget cuts. This includes reviving the helpline for victims of domestic violence, which lost funding during the Bolsonaro administration.

According to a study published in March 2022 by the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies, a Brazil-based nonprofit organization, funding for the hotline dropped by 42% to 25.8 million reais between 2019 and 2021. The same study found that the amount earmarked for the Ministry of Women and Human Rights in the fight against gender-based violence in 2022 was the lowest in the last four years.

And in 2021, only 0.01% of the Ministry of Justice’s National Public Safety Fund was spent on the fight against sexual violence; a law passed last year set a 5% minimum.

Juliana da Costa Gomes, speaking to the AP on Wednesday in Sao Paulo’s second largest favela, or slum, Paraisopolis, complained to Bolsonaro’s government about the increase in domestic violence and the reduction of causes affecting women.

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“But I think we’re living in a different moment,” said Gomes, 37, who founded a program to train vulnerable women in 2017, roughly a decade after she helped found the favela’s women’s association. “This is a moment of hope for a new Brazil that can be better for women.”

At Wednesday’s ceremony, Lula also issued a decree guaranteeing the distribution of free menstrual pads to all poor and vulnerable women; In 2021, Bolsonaro vetoed a bill that sought to do the same.

Lula was joined by first lady Rosângela da Silva, known as Janja, who was constantly present at her private meetings and public events. He recently held an official position within the government, liaising with ministries and advising the president.

In contrast, Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle, was out of sight during the first three years of his administration, appearing during the 2022 campaign to garner the votes of women and evangelicals.

“If it were up to this government, inequality would end today with a decree. But policies, mentality and an entire system built to maintain male privilege must be changed. And this, my friends, is only possible with a lot of struggle, said Lula.


AP video reporter Tatiana Pollatri and writer Mauricio Savarese contributed