International Women’s Day: no time for celebration

In Brazil, International Women’s Day on March 8 is not a day of celebration. In a country with absurd figures of domestic and sexual violence against women, the day is used as a protest and an opportunity to raise awareness. Indeed, instead of chocolates, flowers, and a pat on the back, Brazil’s women made it clear on social media what they wanted from their male counterparts this March 8: silence, and a bank transfer.

In Brazil, one woman is raped every 10 minutes and killed every seven hours, according to latest figures. And this culture of violence is reproduced in the country’s politics, showcased ignominiously over this past week by São Paulo state lawmaker Arthur do Val — better known by his nickname Mamãe Falei.

The right-wing conservative politician sought to surf the wave of news hubbub earlier this month by visiting Ukraine, claiming that the trip was to document the ongoing conflict and the Russian invasion. 

His PR attempt backfired horribly just as he was on his way back to Brazil, when an audio message he presumably sent to a friend was leaked to the press. In it, he gushed about the physical beauty of Ukrainian women, and noted that female refugees were “easy because they’re poor.” 

In true 21st century fashion, the social media storm surrounding Mr. do Val’s comments happened while he was on a transatlantic flight from Europe. By the time he arrived in Brazil, his reputation was in tatters.

Mr. do Val, a member of the libertarian Free Brazil Movement (MBL), is likely to lose his office in São Paulo over the next few weeks. According to newspaper O Globo, his MBL colleagues hope that the duration of his impeachment process will allow him a softer penalty, betting that the storm of outrage will have subsided by then.

If he loses his post as a state lawmaker, he will be made ineligible for office for eight years.

Mr. do Val’s case could end up drawing comparisons to that of fellow state lawmaker Fernando Cury, who in 2020 groped his female colleague Isa Penna during a congress sitting. He escaped with just a suspension.

Go deeper