Monday, November 9, 2015

Women in Brazil protest against harassment and for reproductive rights (Nov. 9, 2015)

Women are rising up in Brazil -- drawing attention to a culture of sexual harassment and rejecting proposed legislation that would limit access to the morning-after pill and information on abortion for rape victims.

The movement began when a 12-year-old competitor on the national version of Junior Masterchef, a televised cooking competition, attracted attention from men who tweeted sexually suggestive messages about her, using the show's hashtag.

"Does anyone know the Twitter of Valentina? She will date me if she wants it or not," wrote one user. "If she wants it, it's not pedophilia, IT'S LOVE," said another..

The messages caught the attention of journalist Juliana de Faria, who is part of the feminist group Think Olga. She started tweeting about the times she was harassed as a minor. Others started sharing their stories under the hashtag - "primeiroassedio" - which translates as "first harassment."

Within five days, Think Olga had calculated 82,000 tweets and retweets using the hashtag My First Harassment, reports the Washington Post

The campaign’s success reflects the increasing activism of women in a deeply macho society, said de Faria, made possible by the Internet. "Women can go the Internet and mobilize," she said. "They can construct their own content."
The tag has been used more than 90,000 times, with women and girls sharing the stories of their first encounter with public sexual harassment, reports the BBC. "At 11, I was heading to my dance class and a man touched my bottom," tweeted one. "13 years old. I was going to the supermarket. Heard from a gentleman that I already had 'beautiful boobs.' #firstharassment," said another.

Ten days ago, a bill proposed by conservative House Speaker Eduardo Cunha (see today's briefs) that would make accessing legal abortions more difficult and restrict access to the morning after pill, generated massive protests in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Protests continued this week, reports the Brazil Post.

About one Brazilian woman dies every four days from illegal abortion reports TeleSur, based on World Health Organization stats.

It's an example of a female led movement, a rarity. Inspired by the protests and the commentary, organizer Manoela Miklos suggested male Brazilian columnists cede their spaces to women for the week -- using the #AgoraÉQueSãoElas (Now what are they).

"We are in a delicate moment," Miklos said in an interview with O Globo. "The women's rights agenda doesn't have the centrality it should in the public debate. A conservative wave brought forward a perverse agenda: the approval of Bill 5.069. So we took to the streets. All of this was in the midst of a beautiful reaction to the terrible episode of "Masterchef" ... The #primeiroassedio was a cathartic moment, that opened a dialogue that is often forbidden, even among women, and publicly demonstrated the size of the problem and the size of the unspoken. #AgoraÉQueSãoElas can only exist because of that moment, which in some way aims to take personal reflections to the public level. From catharsis to an articulated demand for rights."

News Briefs

  • The Brazilian Congressional ethics committee initiated an investigation into allegations of bribery against House Speaker Eduardo Cunha. Legislators appointed a member of the PRB party -- known for ties to evangelical politicians, including Cunha himself -- to lead the investigation, reports Reuters. The committee itself is fairly polemic, explains the piece: One-third of its 21 members are being investigated for alleged crimes – from electoral and tax fraud to money laundering. The investigation, and its results, are extremely relevant for the fragile government of President Dilma Rousseff, as Cunha holds the constitutional authority to take up one of the many impeachment requests filed against her.
  • Rousseff has managed to gather a fragile majority in Congress that would permit her to avoid impeachment moves, according to a Bloomberg piece from Friday that bases itself on a member of Rousseff's Cabinet. Her majority in the lower house is enough to prevent impeachment, but could switch sides quickly, according to the source.
  • Brazilian authorities are still trying to determine what caused dams at an iron ore mine to rupture and to recover the bodies of the 28 people swept away in the ensuing mudslide and flooding. A 500 person rescue operation was underway this weekend, but with little success -- yesterday two more bodies were recovered, which would bring the official death count up to four, reports Reuters. Remote villages have been swamped in mud and some survivors are angry that they weren't warned, despite hours of time before the flood reached them, reports the Wall Street Journal. Analysts say it's a severe blow for the owning company, BHP Billiton Ltd, the world's biggest miner, reports Reuters in a separate story. The accident "comes as steady improvements in large mining companies' records on worker fatalities appear to have stalled," says the Wall Street Journal in another piece, noting that there has been an increase in fatal accidents this year in large mining companies, which are enacting cost cuts amid decreasing commodity prices.
  • The Washington Post has a feature on the Awá tribe in the Brazilian Amazon and the difficulties its few hundred members face as they try to maintain their traditional lifestyle in the face of encroachments by settlers and loggers on their land reserve.
  • Uruguayan lawmakers rejected a proposal to send a legislative delegation to monitor Venezuela's parliamentary elections on December 6. The governing Frente Amplio coalition, along with the Colorado, Independent and Union Popular parties rejected the proposal of a conservative National Party legislator, arguing that sending an uninvited observer delegation would amount to interference in Venezuela's sovereignty, reports TeleSur.
  • Venezuela says a U.S. Coast Guard plane -- which it describes as an intelligence aircraft -- violated national airspace on Friday. The Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said the aircraft flew out of Curacao, and twice entered Venezuelan airspace over the tiny archipelago of Los Monjes while performing what appeared to be a reconnaissance mission in the Gulf of Venezuela, reports the Associated Press.
  • In a surprise move last week the Colombian Senate voted to ban rebel FARC members from participating in politics -- a key element of the peace agreement being hammered out in Havana. In the second of eight debates on constitutional reforms necessary for an eventual peace, the Senate voted down the article allowing FARC members who renounce their weapons access to political participation, potentially causing a major dent in the prospect of a final peace agreement between the National Government and the country's largest guerrilla group, explains Colombia Reports. The reforms and necessary laws to implement the peace accords will be developed by a special legislative committee once the guerrilla's lay down arms, reports Semana, but only after citizens approve the accords in a referendum. On Friday President Juan Manuel Santos said he would call on the members of the U.N. Security Council to rapidly approve a mandate to verify a bilateral ceasefire he hopes to implement by January. The two sides have yet to agree what kind of ceasefire it will be, according to Silla Vacía, which says the government is aiming for a model that concentrates troops in certain areas, while the FARC is hoping for a freezing of the territorial map as is, with a mutual agreement to refrain from attacking each others' forces.
  • The Bolivian Congress approved a measure that permit citizens to decide directly, via referendum, whether to approve a constitutional amendment that would permit President Evo Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term. The vote will be held in February of next year, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.
  • Mexico's National Human Rights Commission criticized the national Attorney General's office for  its "insufficient and imprecise" response to the list of 32 omissions in and recommendations for the investigation of the disappearance of 43 missing college students it made in July, reports the Associated Press.
  • As the U.S. and Cuba continue to advance in (re) establishing ties, Mexico hopes to become the island's main Latin American partner, building on a history of diplomatic closeness, reportsReuters. The two countries' presidents, Raúl Castro and Enrique Peña Nieto, met Friday in Merida, where they announced agreements to fight human trafficking and exchanges in tourism, education and business designed to increase Mexican investment in Cuba, as well as high-level political dialogue, reports the Associated Press. As increasing amounts of Cuban migrants arrive in southern Mexico (see Nov. 2nd's post), the presidents announced a memorandum of understanding to "guarantee the legal, orderly and safe flow of migration" between the two countries, and to "prevent and combat human trafficking" and related crimes.
  • Curiously, the rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S. has caused difficulties for companies running charter flights between the two countries. Whereas previous regulations required the companies to determine whether Americans were authorized travelers, new relaxed rules leave the responsibility with travelers themselves. However, it would appear that banks are attempting to validate the information, in the process, holding up wire transfers that permit the flights to actually happen, reports the Miami Herald
  • As Cuba enters a period of rapid change, the old-guard, the people who fought in the landmark revolution 60 years ago, wonder what will happen to their legacy, reports a New York Timespiece that looks at some of the aged survivors of the movement.
  • The initial results of the Haitian elections of October 25 indicate a need for parliamentary coalitions, reports the Miami Herald. But there are still important questions regarding fraud allegations.
  • The Nicaraguan government approved the environmental and social impact studies for Grand Interoceanic Canal -- essentially clearing the way for construction on the $50 billion mega project to officially begin, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. A spokesman for the government run Canal Commission said the Chinese concession holder HKND pledged to comply with 48 environmental, social and economic requirements, including agreeing further studies. In October officials announced that construction (which technically began last year) will be postponed at least till March in light of environmental and human concerns. (SeeOctober 2nd's post.) Environmentalists, who have been critical of the project all along, say last weeks decision is suspect, considering the government refused to submit the project to independent external review, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Honduras is the most dangerous place in the Americas to practise journalism according to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). But, as with all statistics, it depends how you measure it. If you look at absolute numbers, Mexico, where 55 reporters were killed last year, tops the list, reports the Latin Correspondent.
  • Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's approval ratings are up to 29 percent (the highest since May), thanks in part to the advances in reforms which formed a key component of her election campaign. "New electoral and tax laws are on the books. The process of writing a new constitution has begun, and Congress is debating giving free university education to the poorest half of society - paid for by the tax reform - and more power to trade unions. Probable tweaks to the pension system, such as a new state-run fund, are up next," reports Reuters.
  • Solar energy is Chile's cheapest source of electricity, according to an analysis Deutsche Bank AG, reported on by Bloomberg.
  • A statement by the Chilean Interior Ministry last week said that "it is clearly possible and highly probable" that there was foul play behind the death of poet Pablo Neruda 12 days after the 1973 coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. But an official investigation is still underway and no conclusions about his death have yet been reached, reports the New York Times.
  • ¿Where in the world is "El Chapo" Guzmán? The Argentine government says its acting on a tip that he might have tried to cross the country's border with Chile, reports the Associated Press. Argentine newspapers report that an urgent Interpol alert focused authorities effort's on border crossings in Patagonia. InfoBae says he might be in Villa la Angostura or Bariloche. 
  • La Nación has a profile of the small La Rioja department that has united to consistently reject open-air gold mining projects over the past decade, concerned that the water resources such enterprises need would destroy the area.

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