BRAZIL SOLIDARITY LETTER – In defence of Jacqueline Pitanguy

On 3 December 2019, Brazilian sociologist JacquelinePitanguy became the target of a serious accusation by the Brazilian Minister ofFamily Women and Human Rights, Damares Alves, who in a post published on herTwitter, Instagram and Facebook pages claimed: “Pitanguy defends the killing ofbabies.”

This attack arose from an interview with Jacqueline in themagazine Marie Claire, published on 20September 2019, in which she stated: “Whenyou define religious beliefs as public policy parameters everything gets complicated.Such a step goes against pluralism as a basic principle of democracy. It iswith great concern that I see the head of a women’s rights governmental bodymake decisions based on her religious beliefs. This may imply a setback insecular laws. If a woman does not want to have an abortion under anycircumstances, she has the full right to do so, if she wants to submit to herhusband, it is her choice. But cannot create stereotypes. We have madeimportant advances in Brazil [in the last few decades] and we cannot let ourstruggle wane in the name of the Bible, the Gospel, the Koran or of anyreligion. Our struggle is to ensure that each and every woman can take her ownway and decide about what they want to do.”

The minister attacked Jacqueline personally. She neitherseems to recognize that the Brazilian legal framework allows for abortion inthree circumstances nor that those who are guided by this framework cannot bedescribed as persons who advocate for the killing of babies. This accusationagainst an intellectual and human rights activist who is recognized nationallyand internationally is unacceptable. It ignores Jacqueline Pitanguy’s explicitcommitment to maternity and paternity leave, the right to day care, the rightto breastfeeding in the prison system and the inclusion in the FederalConstitution of State accountability on violence in family relations, included duringthe 1986-88 Constitutional Reform, when she presided over the National Councilof Women’s Rights.

No less important, by emphasizing Jacqueline’s surname, theaccusation extends the defamation and creates a potential risk to other membersof her family. Finally, although the accusation was directed at Jacquelinepersonally, it accuses everyone who defends gender equality, reproductivehealth and rights, the right to decide and the right to life of one millionwomen who annually resort to unsafe abortion in Brazil.

In response, 120 organizations (in 27 countries) and 508 personsliving in Brazil and 37 other countries on all continents have made public theirsolidarity with Jacqueline Pitanguy and their rejection of the Minister’sunfounded accusations.

Public Statement inDefence of Jacqueline Pitanguy and Human Rights

Rio de Janeiro, 5 December 2019

Jacqueline Pitanguy deserves our utmost admiration andrespect due to her work in defence of human dignity and of the universal valuesand principles that define human rights, which include sexual and reproductiverights. As president of the National Council of Women’s Rights (CNDM) duringthe Constitutional Assembly that drafted Brazil’s current Constitution,Jacqueline fought successfully to include the following: a longer maternityleave of four months, paternity leave, the right to free nursery services, theright to breastfeed in correctional institutions and State accountability inregard to addressing violence in family settings. We celebrate Jacqueline’s struggleto establish maternity and paternity as a matter of choice and not imposition.Along with her, we also fight for the right to information and methods ofcontraception and assisted conception.

We stand by Jacqueline’s side in support of the concepts,contained in Brazil’s Constitution, that men and women should have the freedomand the responsibility to make decisions, without coercion, about their sexualand reproductive lives. We stand by her side in defence of the right tovoluntarily terminate a pregnancy on the three legal grounds – in cases ofrape, if the woman’s life is at risk, and in the case of an anencephalicpregnancy – and in a broader sense, we defend the decriminalization of womenthrough the inclusion of the right to abortion in Brazilian laws and norms.

The recognition of her noteworthy and pioneering work hasled Jacqueline to take on leadership roles in national and internationalcouncils, such as the UNESCO Institute of Education, Global Fund for Women,International Human Rights Council, Inter-American Dialogue World Movement forDemocracy, Society for International Development, and Women’s LearningPartnership. In Brazil, she was the president of the Human Rights Brazil Fundand she took part in the Congressional Commission on Citizenship andReproduction (CCR) and National Council of Women’s Rights (CNDM) as anhonourable member.

We repudiate the personal attack against Jacqueline Pitanguyby the Minister of Women’s, Family and Human Rights, which aims not only todamage her political image and trajectory in defence of democracy and of theuniversal values and principles of human rights, but also the struggle ofmillions of people seeking fundamental rights in Brazil and worldwide. Wefiercely reject this attack, targeted at Jacqueline Pitanguy, which alsorepresents a wider offensive against all persons and institutions that defendhuman rights and reproductive autonomy.

by the Feminist Collective 4D (Rio de Janeiro/ RJ): Angela Freitas, Antonia Pellegrino, Beth Lobo,Bila Sorj, Debora Thomé,Lena Lavinas, Helena Celestino, Hildete Pereirade Melo, Leila Linhares Barsted, Sandra Macedo, Sonia Corrêa and Jacqueline Pitanguyherself.


LIST OF SIGNATORIES – 16 December 2019

PHOTO: Women’s Learning Partnership video, 1 February 2019