In 2020, Brazil’s Human Rights Ministry has launched a campaign promising to have the solution to combat teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases: kids, just don’t have sex. The cabinet ministry is using the advent of the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Week—a newly instated commemoration to take place every year at the beginning of February—to promote a nationwide marketing campaign on the “benefits” of sexual abstinence.
The program is the latest brainchild of Brazil’s Minister of Women, Family, and Human Rights, lawyer and Evangelical preacher Damares Alves. Since she was nominated for the seat in President Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet, many of her public declarations have followed an ultra-conservative religious slant, often imported from the U.S.—as is the case of the promotion of chastity as sexual contraception, which is reminiscent of similar American Evangelical programs.
According to the World Health Organization, Brazil’s adolescent pregnancy rates are above the global and continental averages, with 68.4 births for every 1,000 teenage girls aged 15 to 19. The average around the world stands at 46, and Latin America and the Caribbean has 65.5 births per 1,000 adolescent girls.
However, the plan will actually be bankrolled by the Health Ministry, headed by orthopedic physician Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who said that the government “cannot minimize the discussion and only emphasize [sexual abstinence].”
“It’s a complex problem,” he said. “I don’t see a problem with campaigns to talk about [delaying sexual initiation], but it can’t be our only policy. It can’t be the only policy and it can’t be the main policy.”
An evangelical pastor, Ms. Damares Alves has a patchy record of reactionary statements and scandals related to indigenous communities.