Michel Temer Continues to Put Women's Rights at Risk in Brazil

Brazil's interim President Michel Temer has so far been a disastrous ruler in terms of women's rights. Putting Fátima Pelaes in charge of women's issues would be like appointing a former torturer to head the Human Rights Committee or asking a fox to guard a henhouse.
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Women march during a protest against the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. In response to the assault, Brazil's interim President Michel Temer said that Brazil will set up a specialized group to fight violence against women. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Women march during a protest against the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. In response to the assault, Brazil's interim President Michel Temer said that Brazil will set up a specialized group to fight violence against women. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Brazil's interim President Michel Temer has so far been a disastrous ruler in terms of women's rights.

Activists have condemned many of his decisions, among them, stripping the Secretariat of Policies for Women of its ministerial status. That alone would be cause for concern, considering that the cabinet is filled with white men. But the appointment -- which is not yet official -- of former congresswoman Fátima Pelaes as head of the Secretariat has made matters even worse.

Her appointment would be quite unsettling. Fátima was a congresswoman for the state of Amapá, and is currently in charge of women's issues in the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, but her agenda is quite different from that of the feminist movement's.

Fátima is radically opposed to the decriminalization or legalization of abortion -- one of the most important issues for women. In an interview with a religious website, Fátima described how her "encounter with Jesus changed her political views."

Putting Fátima Pelaes in charge of women's issues would be like appointing a former torturer to head the Human Rights Committee or asking a fox to guard a henhouse.

In her own words, between 1991 and 2002, "I hadn't found Jesus Christ yet, so I defended issues that go against biblical values, such as abortion, because at that time I thought that a woman was the 'owner' of her own body." The then-congresswoman also said that she considers family to be a project of God.

In the same interview, Fátima Pelaes declared: "I made a vow to glorify the name of the Lord in Congress."

Fátima's positions would be controversial in any public office. It's not that she is not entitled to have a religion. But it is extremely controversial for her to openly declare that she will perform her public duties, in a secular state, according to her religious convictions. And since her new position is Secretariat of Policies for Women, things can get much, much worse.

Since 2003, when the Secretariat of Policies for Women was created, we have been experiencing a period of developments rather than setbacks. Nonetheless, there has been a recent spike in opposition to the feminist agenda. The most significant force of opposition to women's rights is concentrated in religious congressmen, which have recently occupied more and more seats. Fátima Pelaes seems to have an ideological affinity with those religious congressmen.

If she is appointed, it would become clear that the new president is actively working to destroy social achievements, undermine rights and silence marginalized groups.

These groups are openly opposed to issues related to sexual and reproductive rights, as well as to the LGBT agenda. Putting Fátima Pelaes in charge of women's issues would be like appointing a former torturer to head the Human Rights Committee or asking a fox to guard a henhouse.

The Secretariat of Women's Policies has been headed by amazing women since its establishment in 2003. Nilceia Freire, Emilia Fernandes, Iriny Lopes, Eleonora Menicucci and Nilma Lino Gomes were all long-time activists who played important roles in advancing women's rights in the country.

If Fátima is in fact appointed, it would be a scandal. Temer's government would become a huge obstacle to further advancements in the realm of women's rights.

If she is appointment, it would become clear that the new president is actively working to destroy social achievements, undermine rights and silence marginalized groups. The events that have been unfolding in Brasilia over the last month are undoubtedly disastrous for women -- a terrifying disaster for that matter.

To crown another week of setbacks for women's rights, on Wednesday, May 25, Minister of Education Mendonça Filho met with Brazilian actor Alexandre Frota in his office. For those who are unaware, Alexandre Frota has openly expressed shocking views about rape.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Brazil. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.