“This is Gilead!” was a common utterance on Brazilian Twitter this week. The name is a reference to the fictional theocratic and repressive regime in the U.S. depicted by Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, later becoming a popular TV series. And events earlier this week have led to comparisons between the dystopian society and present day Brazil.
Last weekend, a so-called “pro-life” ultrareligious group protested in front of a hospital in Pernambuco, decrying an abortion procedure being performed on a 10-year-old girl, who was the victim of sustained sexual abuse from one of her family members. Protesters tried to stop doctors and nurses entering the medical facility, saying the girl should be forced to deliver the baby, despite Brazil’s restrictive reproductive rights guaranteeing legal abortions in rape cases.
The group only managed to find the address of the hospital after far-right extremist Sara Winter — who recently spent time in jail for threatening a Supreme Court Justice and organizing anti-democratic rallies — shared the address and the child’s name on her Twitter account.
It is safe to say that one does not need to have read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale to realise that Brazil couldn’t be more old-fashioned and frighteningly far from social progress. At least 1 million women resort to unsafe abortions every year, with one of them dying every two days, according to the Brazilian Health Ministry. Activist groups believe these figures are extremely underrated. Official numbers also point out that at least 180 rapes are reported per day in the country, and the majority of victims are girls of no more than 13 years old.
And that’s not all: one state lawmaker in the state of Rio Grande do Norte even proposed a bill that would force young pregnant girls to watch a video of an abortion procedure upon considering terminating pregnancy, even in cases of rape. Kleber Rodrigues gave up on the measure after many civil organizations criticized his ideia.
But even with sanity left in a few Brazilians, we can affirm that Gilead is in fact here.Support this cartoon →