For a feminist politics

Image: Luis Quintero


The authoritarian ways to prohibit women's social and political rights from the federal political structure extend to states and municipalities


Every day groups of women demonstrate publicly for rights. They take to the streets carrying signs saying “neither dead nor arrested”, #criança NãoÉMãe”, “the right to safe abortion is a human right!” – phrases that refer to authoritarian actions by the State contrary to the termination of pregnancy.

These phrases go back to the scandals reported by the media when a clinic is closed by the police for carrying out an abortion, or when, in 2020, the Minister of Women Damares Alves herself tried to intervene in a hospital where an 11-year-old girl, victim of rape, was going submitting to a legal abortion, or even total disobedience to the civil and political rights of the women who decide to intervene.

Although political and social rights are already enshrined in the 1988 Constitution or in ordinary legislation, people of all ages are working to ensure their fulfillment. Why are women's human rights relegated, unfulfilled, and constantly need to be claimed in collective life? Why doesn't a woman's body belong to her? Why in the XNUMXst century is the female body a “useful asset” for some men?

I propose to rethink the State's control over supposedly personal decisions: rape, domestic violence, femicide, are in the field of individual and personal relationships, however, they are controlled through the political structure in which they are located.


Until the 1950s, the Brazilian State stimulated population growth to occupy the extensive territory. In the 1960s, with urbanization, expansion of the job market, and limited knowledge of anti-reproductive methods, despite government policy, a reduction in the process of population growth began to be implemented in the country.

Women sought to reduce the number of children, although the process had fatal consequences: female mortality increased as a result of absolutely precarious abortions. Despite pro-natalist state policies, women reduced the number of children, in an irreversible process.

Without any adequate program, abortion became the most used “method”. The public authorities joined the Christian Churches in prohibiting it. Linking abortion to sin was an inefficient mechanism: 56% of Catholic women and 25% of evangelical women resorted to abortion. Data from the Observatory of Sexuality and Politics (SPW), a global forum made up of researchers and activists from various countries and regions of the world, show that one in every seven women, at the age of 40, has already had an abortion in Brazil and 52% of them They say they did it under the age of 19.

Article published in Agência Brasil in 2023 shows that “despite being common women, who are everywhere, there is a greater concentration in the most vulnerable group. They are black, indigenous women, living in the North and Northeast, with less education and very young”.

In short, the consequence is macabre: every two days a woman dies as a result of botched abortions and there are two million hospital admissions in 10 years. The exception, of course, is the layer of women from wealthier classes who resort to abortion in hospitals and paid medical care.

Since redemocratization, governments and the population have come together to build a new dialogue. Ministries, state and municipal councils, secretariats, and neighborhood associations were created to tackle gender-based violence, among other issues. Medical, psychological, law and civil society associations expanded their actions, strengthening public policies. Very innovative situations were developed with the state police and police stations and women's police stations were created.

Society fed back and innovated, replacing prison sentences with educational processes for violent men. But what took decades to build was deliberately dismantled in just a few years by an authoritarian government. In the scientific field, they banned the concept of gender, introduced false definitions in opposition to what science develops in practically all countries; reduced by 70% the funding allocated to women's police stations, guidance programs against gender violence, shelter homes, and even cut funding for the excellent telephone program to assist women in life-threatening situations in Brazil and even abroad.


The authoritarian molds of the federal political structure were extended to states and municipalities. The state of São Paulo elected a government with the same authoritarian orientation. And he immediately began a municipal, state and even federal program aimed at future elections. In a few months we will have municipal elections. Councilors are future bases for state and then federal policies. In the media it is possible to assess the disputes between the parties and the guidelines that will be proposed in their programs. What are we women, us feminists, preparing for these elections?

On the right, in the women's field, the authoritarian governor of São Paulo replaces the State Secretary for Women, Sonaire Alves, who is anti-feminist and against gender issues, with state deputy Valeria Bolsonaro. She presided over the Alesp Women's Defense and Rights Committee in a tribute to “patriotic women, who transform Brazil and women's causes, who have no party or ideology”. (I remember that this deputy supported the ban on the requirement to present a covid vaccination card in the State of São Paulo).

In other words, they are replacing a parliamentarian who attributes feminicide to feminists (Sonaire Alves) with another parliamentarian who honors patriotic women by stating that they “have no party or ideology”.

Meanwhile, we, feminists, together with important associations, are fighting to show that Resolution 2.378 against abortion is unconstitutional/illegal, establishing a date for it to be carried out. The position of Febrasco, Catholics for the Right to Decide and seven or eight other organizations is indisputable, but we cannot postpone at this moment the party decisions that will be definitive for the future of gender policies.

In this dark moment, I identify in the words of Ruy Castro, in the article “The – still – nameless threat”, the feeling that haunts me: it is about the advance of the “extreme right, populism, nationalism, moral and religious discourse”, the contempt for political parties, denialism, the rejection of identity theses, but also the “ xenophobia, rejection of immigrants and racism”. And may he allow me to add: anti-Semitism.

There's still time! We must rescue democratic values ​​and propose an egalitarian and feminist platform.

*Eva Alterman Blay She is a retired professor at the Department of Sociology at USP and a former senator. Author, among other books, of Brazil as a destination: roots of contemporary Jewish immigration to São Paulo (unesp).

Originally published on Journal of USP.

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