On December 3rd, sociologist Jacqueline Pitanguy became the target of a serious accusation by the Brazilian Minister of Family Women and Human Rights, Damares Alves, who published a card on her Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages affirming that “Pitanguy defends the killing of babies”. This attack arose from an interview granted by Jacqueline Pitanguy to Marie Claire Magazine, published on September 20th in which she stated:
When you define religious believes as public policy parameters everything gets complicated. Such a step goes against pluralism as a basic principle of democracy. It is with great concern that I see the head of a women’s rights governmental body to make decisions based on her religious beliefs. This may imply a setback in secular laws. If a woman does not want to have an abortion under any circumstances, she has the full right to do so, if she wants to submit to her husband, it is her choice. But cannot create stereotypes. We have made important advances in Brazil [in the last few decades] and we cannot let our struggle wane in the name of the Bible, the Gospel, the Koran or of any religion. Our struggle is to ensure that each and every woman can take her own way and decide about what they want to do.
The minister attacked Jacqueline personally. She neither seems to recognize that the Brazilian legal framework allows for abortion in three circumstances nor that those who are guided by this framework cannot be described as persons who advocate for the killing of babies. This accusation against an intellectual and human rights activist who is recognized nationally and internationally is unacceptable. It ignores Jacqueline Pitanguy´s explicit commitment to the extension of maternity leave to four months and paternity leave, to the right to daycare, to the right to breastfeeding in the prison system and the inclusion, in the Federal Constitution, of State accountability for actions against domestic violence, during the 1986- 1988 Constitutional Reform, when she presided the National Council of Women’s Rights.
No less important, by emphasizing Jacqueline’s surname, the accusation extends the defamation and the potential risk it implies to other members of her family. Finally, although the accusation was directed at Jacqueline as a personal target, it reaches beyond her spilling over all voices that defend the equality between genders, reproductive health and rights, the right to decide and the right to life of one million women who annually resort to unsafe abortion in Brazil.
In response, 120 organizations from 27 countries and 508 persons living in Brazil and other 37 countries of all continents signed the Public Statement below to express their solidarity with Jacqueline Pitanguy and their full rejection of this unfounded accusation.
Public Statement in Defense of Jacqueline Pitanguy and Human Rights
Rio de Janeiro, 5 December 2019
Jacqueline Pitanguy deserves our utmost admiration and respect due to her work in defense of human dignity and of the universal values and principles that define human rights, which include sexual and reproductive rights. As president of the National Council of Women’s Rights (CNDM) during the Constitutional Assembly that drafted Brazil’s current Constitution, Jacqueline fought successfully to include the following: a longer maternity leave of four months, paternity leave, the right to free nursery services, the right to breastfeed in correctional institutions and State accountability in regard to addressing violence in family settings. We celebrate Jacqueline’s struggle to establish maternity and paternity as a matter of choice and not an imposition. Along with her, we also fight for the right to information and methods of contraception and assisted conception.
We stand by Jacqueline’s side in support of the concepts, contained in Brazil’s Constitution, that men and women should have the freedom and the responsibility to make decisions, without coercion, about their sexual and reproductive lives. We stand by her side in defense of the right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy on the three legal grounds – in cases of rape, if the woman’s life is at risk, and in the case of an anencephalic pregnancy – and in a broader sense, we defend the decriminalization of women through the inclusion of the right to abortion in Brazilian laws and norms.
The recognition of her noteworthy and pioneering work has led Jacqueline to take on leadership roles in national and international councils, such as the UNESCO Institute of Education, Global Fund for Women, International Human Rights Council, Inter-American Dialogue World Movement for Democracy, Society for International Development, and Women’s Learning Partnership. In Brazil, she was the president of the Human Rights Brazil Fund and she took part in the Congressional Commission on Citizenship and Reproduction (CCR) and National Council of Women’s Rights (CNDM) as an honorable member.
We repudiate the personal attack against Jacqueline Pitanguy by the Minister of Women’s, Family and Human Rights, which aims not only to damage her political image and trajectory in defense of democracy and of the universal values and principles of human rights, but also the struggle of millions of people seeking fundamental rights in Brazil and worldwide. We fiercely reject this attack, targeted at Jacqueline Pitanguy, which also represents a wider offensive against all persons and institutions that defend human rights and reproductive autonomy.
This campaign was initiated by the Feminist Collective 4D (Rio de Janeiro) comprised by Angela Freitas, Antonia Pellegrino, Bila Sorj, Beth Lobo, Debora Thomé, Helena Celestino, Hildete Pereira de Melo, Leila Linhares Barsted, Lena Lavinas, Sandra Macedo, Sonia Corrêa and Jacqueline Pitanguy herself.
The list of international signatories includes a number of notable persons such as Adrienne Germain, Anand Grover, Anu Kumar, Charlotte Bunch, Christian and Elizabeth Portzamparc, Benedicte Bull, Bernard M. Dickens, Eric Fassin, Fatou Sow, Françoise Girard, Gita Sen, Hoda Elsadda, Joan Scott, Jane Cottingham, Joan Sandler, Judith Butler, Lilian Abracinskas, Lílian Celiberti, Lydia Alpizar, Mahnaz Afkahami, Marge Berer, Marta Rosemberg, Marta Lamas, Marta Maurás Perez, Michel Lowy, Mumtaz Mughal, Peggy Antrobus, Rabea Naciri, Rev. Gail Stratton, Sofia Gruskin, Sonia Montano, Stephen Mosely, Susana Chavez, Susana Chiarotti, Teresa Valdés, Virginia Vargas e Wanda Nowicka.
From Brazil, few relevant names to be mentioned include Adriana Mota, Alfredo Saad Filho, Ana Costa, Anette Goldberg -Salinas, Adriana Ramos de Mello, Andrea Pachá, Beatriz Galli, Beatriz Resende, Branca Moreira Alves, Claudia Versiani, Débora Diniz, Eleonora Menicucci, Ênio Candotti, Elza Berquó, Fátima P. Jordão, Flávia Birolli, Helena Solberg, Heloísa Buarque de Holanda, Hildegard Angel, Iriny Lopes, Jefferson Drezett, José Gomes Temporão, José Henrique Torres, Juana Kweitel, Jurema Werneck, Karim Aïnouz, Kernarik Boujkian, Lígia Bahia, Lília M. Schwarcz, Lucia Murat, Lúcia Xavier, Luciana Boiteux, Lusmarina Campos Gracia, Maitê Proença, Margareth Arilha, Maria Cecília Minayo, Maria Filomena Gregori, Maíra Fernandes, Marco Aurélio Prado, Maria Hermínia Tavares, Maria Jose Rosado, Maria Luiza Heilborn, Mary Garcia Castro, Martha Suplicy, Miriam Grossi, Míriam Ventura, Nair Jane, Natália Mori, Richard Parker, Roberto Arriada Lorea, Rosanne Reis Lavigne, Rosiska Darcy de Oliveira, Silvia Pimentel, Silvia Ramos, Sergio Carrara, Sérgio Fausto, Sueli Carneiro, Valéria Penna and Veriano Terto.