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Feminist bench grows and promises to oppose conservatives

by Ana Luiza Albuquerque, Julia Barbon and Carolina Linhares (Folha de São Paulo)

Defense of feminism propels some candidacies

While Jair Bolsonaro’s PSL (Social Liberal Party) bursted and ensured the second biggest bench in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, feminist women have also succeeded on these elections, promising strong clashes during the next legislature.

A survey carried out by this report identified that the number of feminists elected for Congress reached at least 36 women, an additional nine over the last elections, in 2014. The total number of women climbed from 56 to 84.

In addition, differently than in 2014, some candidacies were propelled through the constant defense of feminism and its agenda, such as the legalization of abortion and the combat against gender violence.

It is the case of young women with a strong presence in social networks, such as Sâmia Bomfim (Socialism and Liberty Party [PSOL]-SP) who obtained around 250 thousand votes, Talíria Petrone (PSOL-RJ), who obtained over 100 thousand, and Marília Arraes (Worker’s Party [PT]-PE), with almost 200 thousand votes. They are all former councilwomen making their debut in the Chamber of Deputies.

Approving propositions, however, will not be an easy task. Bills and provisional measures can only move forward with the favorable vote of most deputies in session. The Chamber holds 513 congressmen.

Conservative parliamentary fronts, whose deputies usually take a stand against the feminist agenda, have a wide base in the current legislature. In the Chamber, the so-called “bullet bench” currently has 270 congressmen, and the evangelical bench, 150.

It’s not yet possible to determine how many congressmen each bench will hold from 2019 onwards, but the rise of the PSL, that elected 52 congressmen, suggests conservatism will not cool down.

Sâmia, elected from the state of São Paulo, promises her office will be one of confrontation. “[The election of feminists] doesn’t mean that women will be debating feminist themes alone, but that there will a posture of not lowering our heads, of conflict, of debate”, she told Folha.

Elected councilwoman in São Paulo in 2016, Sâmia, 29, had her ballot count multiplied twenty times. She credits the strengthening of feminist campaigns to the street demonstrations in defense of gender issues and to the will of the Brazilians to elect women who would represent a counterpoint to Bolsonaro.

She also considers that the social networks had a fundamental role in dissemination. “I had a thirty-second TV appearance once and that was it. Some video materials in Facebook and WhatsApp have reached over eight million people”, she affirms.

Women will be 15% of the 513 deputies in 2019 – the biggest female percentage ever reached in the house, even though they are over 51% of the population. In 2014, the election of women reached 10%.

“We are only here because of the feminist struggle. I believe it is a process of occupation of spaces which were historically male”, evaluates Marília, 34, elected from the state of Pernambuco.

She also foresees clashes in the Chamber. “The more conservative wing will try to bring the debate to the moral terrain. We will try our best to approve progressive agendas, but it will take popular mobilization and raising awareness of other women”, she says.

Just like Sâmia, Talíria, 33, also had her ballot count multiplied twenty times. In 2016, she was elected councilwoman in Niterói, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, with 5000 votes. She says her candidacy was boosted by society’s revolt against the assassination of her friend, councilwoman Marielle Franco (RJ), this past march.

“There is a mobilization of black women who have never been silent, and after Marielle’s execution, has shown itself to be very strong”.

For her, the social networks are a place “for disputing the narrative, which is still dominated by the fascist sector”. “Fake news, fake WhatsApp messages, unfortunately have produced an electoral victory from this sector. Our task is to widen our intervention”, she says.

In the states’ Legislative Assemblies, feminist candidacies have also won. Rio de Janeiro, for example, elected three black women who assisted Marielle, all of them from the PSOL.

In São Paulo, Erica Malunguinho (PSOL) became the first transgender deputy in the country. Beside her in the Assembly will be Isa Penna, 27, bisexual, also from the PSOL.

The state of Minas Gerais elected Andreia de Jesus (PSOL), supported by “Women’s Campaign”, an alliance of activists to raise female representativeness in politics, and also by the “Many” collective, which also defends progressive and feminist causes.


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