On February 8th, 2021, the National Confederation of Workers in Education and the National Confederation of Workers in Health presented a petition to the Brazilian Supreme requesting judicial measures to be taken in relation to nefarious instrumentalization of the hotline run by the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights (MMFDH). The lawsuit interrogates the constitutionality of the uses now being made of the hotline, by the Bolsonaro administration, as a tool of political coercion and policing, and as mechanism to promote anti-vaccine sentiments and social mobilization. The arguments developed in the lawsuit are examined in the article by Jamil Chade published at the UOL Portal on February 9th (see below). In this short preamble it is interesting to offer few additional observations.
The arbitrary misuse of the Dial 100 hotline to “surveil and punish” discussions and actions related to “gender” in public and private institutions was identified by Brazilian researchers and activists in early 2021. The group was then elaborating a submission on anti-gender politics in Brazil for the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Human Rights who was preparing his reports The Law of Inclusion and the Practices of Exclusion. The English report submitted to the mandate can be accessed here and its updated version in Portuguese, that was launched in October 2021, is available here.
In November 2021, two concrete cases were identified of public-school teachers who were investigated by the police after denounces have been made against them through the Dial 100 hotline. The cases mobilized press articles and called the attention of teachers unions and related organizations, as well as of human rights defenders. Then, in January 2022, the Ministry issued a technical note justifying the use of the hotline as a channel to denounce “human rights abuses related to COVID vaccination” . In response to these bluntly nefarious distortions of a vital instrument of surveillance of human right violations, the above cited confederations, in partnership with a wider group of civil society organizations, tabled the petition at the Supreme Court.
The initiative is another step in a series of judicial contestations of the ongoing dynamics of de-democratization underway in Brazil since 2019. Most significantly perhaps, it contests simultaneously the Brazilian state instrumentalization of two main strawmen now brandished by neoconservative and secular right-wing movements: “gender ideology” and COVID-19 vaccine related conspiracies. The arguments raised by the ADPF dismantle discourses and political strategies that are at the core of de-democratizing agitations propelled by these forces during the pandemic.
We will keep you informed on the further developments of the lawsuit!
Article by Jamil Chad, published by UOL on February 9th,2021
Brazilian Federal Administration charged in the Supreme Court for using hotline for political persecution
Federations of education and health professionals filed a petition against the instrumentalization of “Dial 100” by the Federal Administration for political persecution and for promoting a surveillance policy. In a lawsuit tabled this week at the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF), the National Confederation of Education Workers (CNTE) and the National Confederation of Health Workers (CNTS) warned over abuses and called for urgent measures from the Judiciary.
The “Lawsuit regarding Breach of Fundamental Precept” (ADPF) alleges that the Federal Administration’s initiative is in total disagreement with the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence and that the hotline service created to register violations has been converted into an ideological patrolling apparatus.
According to the groups, the channel originally created to receive complaints on human rights abuses is now being used to embarrass education professionals, other citizens and institutions that may have a different views from the Federal Administration on issues such as vaccination, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Human rights concepts are being subverted in order to allow for the implementation of a policy of surveillance, persecution, discrimination and repression, especially in the realms of Education and Health,” says the petition, obtained exclusively by the columnist. The measure was carried out by activists and law professionals working in the defense of human rights.
Created in 1997, the “Dial 100” hotline (“Disque 100” in Portuguese) is a public service administered by the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights. The Ministry’s responsibility is to receive, analyze and forward reports of rights violations. The systematization of the complaints is also considered as a key tool for public managers, civil society and researchers to monitor the human rights situation in the country, “however, the channel has been reformulated under President Bolsonaro’s rule,” is what the ADPF lawsuit argues.
One of the complaints refers to the initiative of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights to recently issue a technical note stating that the requirement of vaccination certificates for access to public or private places “is a human rights violation” .
“‘Dial 100’ was made available to receive this type of complaint, in another push by the Bolsonaro administration to curtail measures aimed at tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. Once again, the use of ‘Dial 100’ disrespects the Supreme Court’s decisions, which recognized the legality of indirect restrictions to expand vaccination coverage in the country,” point out the entities that signed the petition.
Both the Federal Administration and the Bolsonaro’s radical political base, a campaign is conducted in social networks against the vaccination certificate, claiming that it amounts to a restriction of rights. In Europe and in dozens of countries, the instrument is widely used, while in France, studies indicated that vaccination has saved approximately 4,000 lives and generated billions for public treasure. By making the “Dial 100” an instrument to “denounce” vaccine certificates the entities signing the ADPF underline that the administration stimulates vaccine hesitation and persecution of health workers.
Another complaint of the lawsuit refers to the changes in the registration protocol of “Dial 100” as it now includes the expression “gender ideology” as a motivation of human rights violations. For the groups leading the lawsuit, such measure aims to encourage complaints against education professionals who address gender matters in schools. As it is known, fabricated in the 1990s by conservative sectors of the Catholic Church, the so-called “gender ideology” has become a reactionary response against the LGBTQIA+ population and women’s rights progress at the international level.
One of the concerns expressed by the entities that filed the lawsuit is the possibility that law enforcement agencies is triggering denounces against education professionals through Dial 100.
“It happened in December 2021 in the city of Resende (Rio de Janeiro), where the director of Getúlio Vargas Municipal School was subpoenaed by the Police after an anonymous tip for allegedly exposing students to ‘communist concepts’ and ‘gender ideology’”, describe the lawsuit. A similar case occurred in in the city of Salvador (Bahia) when a philosophy teacher at the public-school Thales de Azevedo was denounced for addressed issues of gender, racism and sexuality in her class.
“’Dial 100’ was used to circumvent jurisprudence established by the Brazilian Supreme court, both in relation to gender perspective in education and access to vaccination,” says lawyer and former federal prosecutor Deborah Duprat, one of the entities representatives in the lawsuit. The lawsuit also counts with the representation of the lawyer’ s group Freedom Network (Rede Liberdade). “What’s worse, these complaints are sent to police agencies without a description of the crime that should be investigated. Therefore, the police apparatus is weaponized to foster fear and inhibition towards absolutely legal and constitutional practices, endorsed by the Supreme Court,” said Duprat.
The groups behind the appeal at the highest Brazilian court point out that the Supreme Court (STF) itself has considered unconstitutional state and municipal laws that prohibited addressing contents related to gender and sexuality in schools, laws that were based on the strawman category “gender ideology”. “The STF also determined that it is the Brazilian State’s mandate to address gender equality in school as a way to prevent domestic violence and sexual abuse of children and adolescents,” the text highlights.
Another element of the lawsuit refers to “Dial 100’s” current functioning, which, according to the authors of the case, turns invisible data on violence against LGBTQIA+ people. “As it is structured, it is impossible to obtain data on violence motivated by homophobia and transphobia,” said Marco Aurélio Máximo Prado, a UFMG professor and coauthor of a study on changes to the service. “This information is essential for states and municipalities to develop policies addressing these cases,” he explains.
In April 2021, the Ministry led by Damares Alves published a new manual to classify notifications received by “Dial 100”. “In this document, a mixed item ‘Due to sexual orientation / gender ideology’ was included as one indicator of violations’ motivations,” point out the entities.
But, “according to a study conducted by researchers from UFMG, the Manual promotes an erasure of homophobic and transphobic violence, due to the vagueness of the term ‘sexual orientation’ and because sexual orientation is coupled with the ‘gender ideology’s’ problematic category”, they say. For these reasons, the entities warn that “Dial 100” “constitutes another measure adopted by the Bolsonaro administration to attack actions and policies committed to gender equality and sexual diversity in the country”.
In the face of such complaints, the authors of the lawsuit request the Brazilian Supreme Court to determine the removal of the expression “gender ideology” from the manual and the inclusion of the category gender identity and indicators of rights violations against the LGBTQIA+ population.
They also ask for suspending the technical note that questions the mandatory status of National Vaccine Certificates and child vaccination, as well as the requirement that complaints from “Dial 100” must be forwarded to police agencies only in the event of a crime typified in law, with the specific criminal type.
Image: Calavera by Antoni Tapiés