How much does religious opinion sway Brazil’s reproductive rights battle?

Gabriela De Cicco for AWID – WNN Religion & Belief

Abortion rally sign Brazil
A poster displayed publicly supports reproductive rights as it asks women to join a public march in the streets in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Image: Gabby DC/WorldPulse

(WNN) Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL, SOUTH AMERICA: Public pro/con discussions on abortion and reproductive rights for women are rising in Brazil as a possible new legislation known as ‘Estatuto do Nascituro’ (Statute of the Unborn Child) may soon be adopted into law.

AWID – Association for Women’s Rights in Development recently spoke to Brazilian Rosângela Talib, Executive coordinator of Catholics for the Right to Decide, about how this and other similar legal proposals will affect Brazilian women and their basic human rights.

Perhaps the question is this, “How much power do religious-based political parties inside Brazil have to deeply change the lives of countless women living in the region?”

AWID’s Gabriela De Cicco talked with Rosângela Talib to explore the serious political and human rights issues now facing the women of Brazil.


AWID: What abortion legislation currently exists in Brazil?

Rosângela Talib (RT): The Criminal Code of 1940, which is still in force, defines abortion as a crime in Title I, Chapter I, Crimes Against the Person.  However  Article 128 exempts women from punishment where an abortion is necessary because of risks to pregnant mother’s life or cases, where pregnancy has resulted from rape, and is performed by doctors. Law No. 12.845/2013 approved on 1 August 2013 by the President of the Republic provides for abortion care services in these cases, which are provided in the national health care system.

AWID: What role have religious groups played in advancing or impeding women’s rights in Brazil?

RT: Religious fundamentalisms have been a source of obstacles for the advancement of Brazilian women’s human rights.

This is due to their constant efforts to violate the secularity of the state, starting from an ideology in which both family life and political organization are subject to an ultraconservative belief that women and girls should be controlled and their rights rejected.

Fundamentalisms are reflected in the actions of conservative groups organized in partisan politics (including the formation of parliamentary groups), interfering with the passing of laws and in the implementation of public policies. We are currently seeing an upsurge of these religious fundamentalisms, and thus a reemergence of moral conservatism, a rigidity of customs and a crystallization of gender inequality.

They [ultraconservatives in Brazil] are attempting to criminalize women, violating their fundamental rights and impeding them from exercising their sexual and reproductive rights. 

There are many examples of the use of these strategies: efforts to prohibit the distribution of emergency contraceptives in some parts of the country; a Parliamentary Inquiry Commission proposal on abortion; an attempt to criminalize around 10,000 women in Mato Grosso do Sul for allegedly having an abortion at a private clinic; the impact and controversy surrounding the publication of the 3rd National Human Rights Program; and the presentation of the ‘Statute of the Unborn’ in the House of Representatives and its approval at the Commission on Social Security and Family.

It is also important to note that the Brazilian Federal Government itself has been the agent of violations of the secularity of the state.

Some recent examples are: the agreement signed between Brazil and the Vatican, which grants privileges to the institutionalized Catholic religion such as, inter alia, the imposition of religious education in the public schools, which has often been used for Christian religious proselytism – Catholic or evangelical – in flagrant disregard of the secularity of the state. . .

To read the rest of this interview and get more information about religious institutions and the abortion debate in Brazil link HERE