SPW has transcripted and translated Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo remarks during a Public Hearing on July 8th, 2019, when he was summoned to explain the repetitive stance against gender-related themes during multilateral meetings.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo | Opening remarks
For our Itamaraty work, this connection with Congress, with the Chamber of Representatives and this Commission is important to debate, clarify and present what we are trying to implement in foreign policy.
I would like to say at the beginning that we are, as a democratic country, a country in which the rule of law is fully exercised, a country that seeks to implement in its foreign policy in a manner consistent with the mandate from the ballot box.
There is some doctrine that foreign policy is immutable and alien to the democratic process, a kind of island of established positions that cannot be changed, and we do not agree with that because we believe that we are in a democratic state where foreign policy, like any policy, is subject to democratic debate and, in this case, to the choice of ballot box. So we don’t want there to be a specificity of foreign policy that distinguishes it from economic policy, health policy, education policy, or any other policy.
We have made a great effort to update, for example, our foreign commercial and economic agenda where Itamaraty has a very important presence, although not exclusive in the conduct of international negotiations. In this sense, we have already achieved important advances on the commercial and investment front. We are opening up the possibility of Brazil joining the OECD very soon, for example, where, in fact, there is an important impact for all the policies that are dealt with here because the OECD has very high standards of policies in all areas, including social areas, in health areas.
In that whole area of health and human rights, I want to make it very clear that our participation in all forums is still very much focused on ensuring international cooperation in the case of health in that area. Our participation on all fronts, in WHO, in PAHO, in bilateral cooperation, is always due to the responsibility that we understand that we have before the international community in this area and in many others. This is very clear, for example, in the voluntary commitments that Brazil presented when it presented its candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council. We reiterate and expand our understanding of the rights that we want to be protected at the international and national levels, the strengthening of the internal human rights system itself in a very emphatic manner, the rights of women, the fight against violence against women, the rights of children and adolescents, of youth, of the family, the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of persons in vulnerable situations, freedom of religion, the fight against racism, freedom on the Internet, freedom of expression, the right to privacy, direct access to the elderly, social inclusion, the right to health in a very clear way here on our platform linked here to part of the fundamental work of this commission and also in the area of the fight against corruption which is increasingly considered part of human rights.
Throughout this year I would like to highlight four international meetings in which the position of Brazil was updated as I was saying, according to the priorities and form of the Brazilian government itself. In the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March, in the 42nd session of the Commission on Population and Development in April, in the 72nd session of the World Assembly and Health in May, and in the 41st session of the Council on Human Rights between the end of June and the beginning of July. In all these aspects, I want to emphasize that Brazil defends equality between men and women, according to art. 5, item 1, of the Federal Constitution, which establishes, as you know, that between men and women, men and women are equal in rights and obligations under this constitution. We are fully committed to strengthening women’s human rights, combating discrimination against women, and eliminating violence against women, as I also mentioned. Brazil defends the principle of the inviolability of the right to life, art.5 cap of the Federal Constitution, and entirely in our understanding consistent with the Brazilian legislation. We, therefore, are convinced that we are in these areas of human rights, all of them, acting in a manner fully compatible with our constitution, with our legal system. In the same way, we defend the strengthening of family ties within a human rights approach. To this end, our government has developed cross-cutting public policies in the areas of health, education, housing, social assistance, among others, which always have in the family the focal point of the state’s actions. Supporting initiatives that contribute to the strengthening of family structures and relationships, always taking into special consideration the different socio-cultural and economic circumstances of families, especially with regard to families in vulnerable situations. In this area, also very specifically, we are acting not only in accordance with the Brazilian legal system but also with the universal declaration of human rights itself, which establishes the recognition of family rights and proclaims the family as a fundamental part of society.
Some specific points about the session of the committee on the issue of women in March. On this occasion, Brazil actively participated. Minister Damares Alves headed the Brazilian delegation, which consisted of officials from her portfolio as well as from Itamaraty. I would just like to mention that on this occasion the Minister mentioned the Brazilian government’s commitment to strengthening women’s rights, among the priorities she highlighted at the meeting, I would like to highlight once again the fight against violence and the fight against discrimination against women.
In the session of the developing population commission, the delegation was headed by Dr. Angela Gandra Martins present here, who presented in her work the priorities of the Brazilian government in relation to families, a policy fully supported by Itamaraty throughout the Brazilian government as well.
At the session of the World Health Assembly, the delegation was led by the Minister of Health, Mandetta, and during the consideration of the WHO strategy for the health care of women and girls we joined a declaration with some other countries reaffirming the commitment to the promotion of the highest level of health for women and girls just again rejecting the use of a certain terminology that seemed inadequate to us. But explicitly advocating for the health of women and girls, the support of the family as a fundamental institution of society, the expansion of health opportunities for women and girls, especially those at risk, and urging WHO to focus on these concrete topics, these topics of effective attention to women’s and girls’ health issues and not on terminological issues, which unfortunately still divide countries. Brazil’s intervention on this occasion, the very important one itself, made it clear that this was our position. We support the highest standards of health for women, girls and adolescents, including those concerning reproductive issues. The health of women and girls will benefit from a holistic approach and we must focus on concrete issues.
In the session of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva between the end of June and the beginning of July, Brazil had an active participation, made various contributions, various interventions, and co-authored various draft resolutions. Among the draft resolutions that Brazil co-sponsored we have one on access to medicines, another on human rights in the digital environment, this is not directly linked to health rights, but I would like to emphasize very much that this is a concern of ours, the issue of the virtual world, the digital world, today in human society, for each individual, for each society our presence in the virtual world is sometimes almost as intense or more intense than in the real world. Following with resolutions of which Brazil was co-author, combating discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, impact of corruption on human rights, again another theme that has to expand within the theme of human rights. We have seen and Brazil, with all that we suffer with corruption is a very clear example of how corruption can affect the effective enjoyment of human rights and among other draft resolutions. In addition, on this occasion, together with Poland and Iraq, Brazil sponsored a side event on religious freedom in which the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights’s global protection secretariat, Sergio Queiroz, who also made our own clear, slowed down the priority we attach to this issue. In addition, on this occasion, the secretary of the elderly person, the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, made a presentation, a thematic debate on the role of technical cooperation in the enjoyment of the rights of the elderly. Also another dimension of our platform for action in this area.
Finally, in some debates, in the debate on some resolutions, we also voted on this terminological issue, the issue of gender specifically. Brazil has always made it clear that our discussion is about this conceptual aspect and our position in absolutely nothing deviates from our legislation, nor from our commitments, much less from our efforts at the national, bilateral and multinational levels, to work in favor of equality between men and women, the health of women and girls and this theme that I had mentioned. Ah, yes, I would like to highlight again the importance of this document that we presented for our candidacy to be a member of the United Nations HRC.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo | Reply
Well, I think we basically have two questions. One is the issue of women’s health, sexual rights and that kind of language and then the issue of gender. So, in relation to this issue of women’s health and reproductive rights, right. Our concern is fundamentally the following: the verification that within this concept of sexual and reproductive rights and in the discussion that is sometimes conducted, when it is conducted about women’s health, yes, there are, is embedded the issue of abortion. So what I, we want is to make it clear that when we talk about this we are not talking about abortion. People who advocate the use of this concept do not lend themselves to it. So if we could reach a consensus that when we are talking about women’s health, we are not necessarily talking about abortion, because abortion is another discussion, right? Then everything would be fine.
That’s a trick that the people of that abortist ideology are using. Taking a noble concept, which is what the left does a lot, kidnapping that concept, perverting and distorting it. It happens with the environment, it happens with the environment, it happens with human rights. So abortionists have always tried to put the right to abortion through either judicial decisions or now through the UN. Why don’t you put forward a bill on that? It is you who have to discuss it. It’s the legislative one. The UN cannot replace the Brazilian legislative processes. So this is one thing.
Well, then, just the question of voting in favour with certain countries. We vote in accordance with our principles. Whether other countries are together or not, we will not be guided by that. So we have neither automatic alignment nor misalignment with anyone. We have alignment with our principles, with our values. Regarding specifically early marriage, we have already made it clear in several instances that we are against it, including in the instruction that is here for our participation in this 41st session of the Commission on Human Rights.
On the issue of gender. Here we are facing an ideology. What is an ideology? An ideology is a set of postulates that challenges reality. And when reality contradicts theory, so much the worse for reality. This is ideology. Gender ideology” is clearly the case. Why? We have the millenary experience of humanity, we have common sense and we have science saying that there are men and women. And there is an ideology saying that it does not exist, saying that this is a social construction. Without any basis, without any proof. And when reality confronts, ideology prevails in those who espouse ideology. So our intention in this debate is to de-ideologize. To remove this ideology. “Gender ideology” is extremely harmful. Why our concern? It is not just a question of logic or terminology, which is also important. Allow me to bring this tragic case of the boy Rhuan. What motivated, what did we say made the mother herself and the mother’s partner feel empowered to the point of castrating the boy and killing the boy? The gender ideology, the “idg”. They heard that there is no man and woman and you castrating him, he becomes a woman. They understood this. Why is that being said out there? Then the boy Rhuan, then you said that I am a character. I wanted to know from what story the boy Rhuan is a character now, okay?
I do have a concern about demonization in certain cases of sexuality, male sexuality in this case. There is, of course there is, that we see a lot in the USA, in Brazil a little less, but these things are migrating here. Nowadays in the USA you have situations in which a woman claims without any proof that she was a victim of rape and that man’s life is destroyed. So you have the question of the rule of law. It is not a question of denying the issue of rape, it has to be fought in all ways, like all forms of violence. But it is also to expel the ideology of this type of debate. This is the… my answer to that.
Well, I’d like to mention that on the subject of torture, for example… We have here a report by the human rights rapporteur Michelle Bachelet on Venezuela where she points out systematic cases of torture by the Maduro government. We are protesting against this. Brazil with several other countries is trying to put out this regime that practises torture, that practises other barbarities against human rights, and the people who at least I have the impression, that the people who are talking here defend the Maduro government.
The Philippines seemed to us to be a poorly formulated resolution. Of course, Brazil is not in favor of any kind of violence. It is in favour of things being properly investigated. In this case, it seemed to us that the resolution was badly formulated so our decision was to abstain, which is a very common decision when we think that a certain resolution is badly formulated. That is to say, you are in favour of a principle that any case of violence, such as that alleged in the case of the Philippines, but the terms are sometimes not adequate and we have abstained.
I have given here a brief example to many here of all these resolutions that we co-present, for example, one of them that now… in this last session of the HRC. Oh, yes, returning to the issue of forced child marriage, Brazil voted in favor without any, without any reservations in favor of the resolution that expresses concerns about early and forced child marriage. This made our position entirely clear in this regard. We believe that all our actions have been consistent in these areas. Simply this question of not putting smuggling into certain resolutions and discussions things that are not being discussed by this legislative house or by the Brazilian people. The Brazilian people have the right to know what is within these resolutions and this is what we are looking for in this one of specifying both the terminology and the terminology related to reproductive rights, as well as gender.
We have tried to implement a solid foreign policy, consistent, consistent once again with the values of the Brazilian people that were enshrined in the ballot box. We could not make our foreign policy a channel for the imposition of principles, of norms that were not voted by this legislative house and that were not explicitly and clearly presented to the Brazilian people. This is, perhaps, the main element of our participation. We want these forums to promote human rights in accordance with the way they are expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the way they have always been understood and not create this climate of darkness, of smuggling, where you put a business “Ah, health” and then have a different concept that is inside of it, hidden. So it is once again our commitment to the Brazilian people. The Brazilian people have to know what is being discussed outside and if they want to approve abortion will have to be according to our internal legal system and not according to an interpretation of the shadows there in the UN resolution. In the same way in relation to gender, this gender ideology causes one, can cause more harmful effects that this has to be discussed, has to be legislated, and not be subject to this kind of confusion there in international resolutions. We are committed to the defense of human rights, as they are expressed in the declarations. Allow me to reiterate, but it is a very important issue for us. In Venezuela, what is happening in Venezuela is the greatest barbarism in human rights violations. In this sense, Brazil has been acting, leading the way in the attempt to replace a regime that violates human rights with a legitimate government. This makes it very clear that our commitment is not only nominal, it is not simply to make a speech, it is to act for the human rights of real people who are suffering, in the case of Venezuela for example.