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Brazil Court Fines Bolsonaro Gov’t Over ‘Offensive’ Public Statements ‘Discriminating’ Against Women

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Among the “offensive” statements cited in the filed lawsuit are remarks by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro himself against journalists, some of them of a sexual nature, as well as those attributed to the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, and Damares Alves, Minister of Human Rights, Family and Women.

A Brazilian federal judge has ruled to sanction the government of President Jair Bolsonaro for its “repeated” statements that are “discriminatory against women,” attributed to both the president and several of his ministers, reported Brazilian media on Friday.

The ruling, which can still be appealed, establishes that the Government must pay a fine for collective moral damages to women’s movements, estimated at five million reais (one million dollars), while also allocate double that amount to promote official awareness campaigns against domestic violence and sexual harassment.

MARIANA GREIF

People participate in a protest against Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and his handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Cuiaba, Brazil, June 19, 2021.

The decision, announced by Judge Ana Lúcia Petri, followed a lawsuit filed last August by the Federal Public Ministry. The ruling determined that the aforementioned statements of a “discriminatory nature in relation to women have caused negative consequences for the entire Brazilian society and moral damages of collective dimensions”. The remarks were deemed an unconstitutional abuse of the freedom of expression in the performance of state power.

Listed in the lawsuit were statements by Minister of Economy Paulo Guedes, Minister of Human Rights, Family and Women Damares Alves, other government officials, and President Jair Bolsonaro himself.

Inflammatory Remarks, ‘Sexual Innuendo’

The latter referenced the political leader’s numerous controversial remarks targeting women, as well as gay people and other minorities that have raised eyebrows and concerns. Some were aimed at journalists and were of a sexual nature.

“I’ve got five kids but on the fifth I had a moment of weakness and it came out as a girl,” Bolsonaro told an audience at the Clube Hebraica in Sao Paulo in April 2017.

In an exchange with congresswoman Maria do Rosario in Brazil’s lower house in 2014 Bolsonaro was cited as saying: “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it.”

Rosario later argued his comments had encouraged sexual assault. In a subsequent newspaper interview, Bolsonaro said Rosario was “not worth raping; she is very ugly”.

On 6 July 2019 the President said that Brazil is a “virgin that every foreign pervert wants”, as he discussed the process of demarcation of indigenous lands and deforestation in the Amazon.

Bolsonaro was earlier accused of inciting hatred towards LGBT people after declaring the South American country should not become a “gay tourism paradise”.

“If you want to come here and have sex with a woman, go for your life… But we can’t let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise,” Bolsonaro reportedly told journalists in the capital, Brasília, in 2019, according to the magazine Exame.

Earlier in the year, a Brazilian court ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to pay compensation to a journalist after making degrading comments about her. In 2020 Bolsonaro had suggested Patrícia Campos Mello, award-winning reporter for Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, had offered sex to a source for negative information about him. Campos Mello later hailed the judge’s decision as a “victory for all of us women”.

In the case of Damares Alves, an evangelical pastor, one of the statements considered “discriminatory” by the court referred to the “submission” that, according to the minister, a woman should show towards a man, in remarks made by the minister at a hearing held in the Chamber of Deputies.
As for Brazil’s Economic Affairs Minister, he described Brigitte Macron, wife of the French President Emmanuel Macron, as “really ugly”.

“The President said it, and it’s true. That woman is really ugly,” said Paulo Guedes, following uncomplimentary comments by the Brazilian President himself that had aroused indignation in France and in Brazil.



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Texas Deputy AG Apologizes for Slamming Simone Biles as ‘National Embarrassment’

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US gymnast Simone Biles received immense support from Americans this week after announcing she would not be competing in the Team USA final, nor the women’s individual all-around gymnastics final, due to personal mental health concerns. At the same time, the 24-year-old has received backlash from many individuals who viewed her pull-out as weak.

Aaron Reitz, deputy attorney general for Texas, took to Twitter on Wednesday evening to issue an apology to Biles, and recant a statement in which he panned the record-setting US gymnast as a “national embarrassment.” 

“In a moment of frustration and disappointment, I opined on subjects for which I am not adequately versed. That was an error. I can’t imagine what Simone Biles has gone through,” Reitz claimed. “Simone Biles is a true patriot and one of the greatest gymnasts of our time.”

“I apologize to her, and wish her well,” the deputy AG concluded, emphasizing that his “personal social media comments” do not represent the views of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, nor the Office of the Attorney General. 

Reitz’s since-deleted tweet against Biles, who was born in Texas and still resides in the Lone Star State, quoted another post that applauded the 1996 Olympic performance of Team USA gymnast Kerri Strug. Strug, one of the US’ “Magnificent Seven,” severely injured her ankle during the first half of the vault competition, but refused to bow out of the event and ultimately led her team to win the US’ first gold medal in women’s gymnastics. 

“Contrast this with our selfish, childish national embarrassment, Simone Biles,” Reitz said in his quote tweet. 

The deputy AG’s attempt at using Strug’s story to chastise Biles fell flat, as the two-time Olympian threw her support behind the 24-year-old on Tuesday. 

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Biles is no stranger to performing with adversity. When the US Women’s Gymnastics team took home gold at the 2018 World Championships in Qatar, Biles dominated in nearly every competition, despite intense stomach pains from what was later confirmed to be a kidney stone. 

Despite her pull-outs this year, Biles has continued to root for her fellow Team USA gymnasts. She also expressed in a Wednesday social media post that “the outpouring [of] love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”



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Aid cuts make a mockery of UK pledges on girls’ education | Zoe Williams

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With all the fanfare Covid would allow, the global education summit opened in London this week. Ahead of the meeting, the minister for European neighbourhood and the Americas was on rousing form. “Educating girls is a gamechanger,” Wendy Morton said, going on to describe what a plan would look like to do just that.

The UK, co-hosting the summit with Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, plans to raise funds for the Global Partnership for Education, from governments and donors. The UK government has promised £430m over the next five years.

There followed a number of reasons why the issue is so important, all of them absolutely sound: on any given indicator, from GDP to infant health and beyond, a nation stands or falls by how well, for how long, and how inclusively it educates its girls.

The issue has never been more important than during this pandemic, which in many countries is hitting a peak having already affected girls disproportionately.

These are all the right words, even in the right order, yet they land completely at odds with the government’s behaviour.

Lis Wallace, head of advocacy at the One campaign, is most immediately concerned with these pledges being fully funded. There are two core targets: one is to increase girls’ access to education, the other is to boost the key milestone for all children – that they’re able to read and understand a simple story by the age of 10.

The past 18 months have been devastating for education, particularly in countries where it’s harder to access to online learning. About 1.6 billion children are out of school across the world. There’s a target to raise $5bn (£3.6bn), “which is a drop in the ocean of what is required to meet the global learning crisis”, Wallace says. It looks as though this summit will raise no more than $4bn, which is nothing less than a “failure of statecraft”, as Wallace explains: “It’s challenging when the host government is stepping back and making aid cuts for it then to ask other countries to step up.”

This is a depressing echo of the G7’s failure earlier this year; commitments to share vaccine doses with low-income countries came too little, too late, with devastating results, and it’s hard to avoid the question of whether that outcome would have been different if the host nation had role modelled some generosity.

Furthermore, there’s some confused causality in the minister’s assertion that staying in school protects girls from “forced child marriage, gender-based violence and early pregnancy”. The exact inverse is true: it is largely teenage pregnancy that forces girls out of school in the first place, and to try to use education in lieu of sexual health and reproductive provision is illogical.

Esi Asare Prah, who is a youth and advocacy officer in Ghana for MSI Reproductive Choices, describes a situation in which 5,000 to 7,000 girls drop out of school each year after becoming pregnant – last year, 2,000 of them were between 10 and 14. Across sub-Saharan Africa, MSI estimates that up to 4 million girls drop out or are excluded from school every year due to pregnancy.

“These girls are most likely to be on the street, doing menial jobs; their children will not make it into higher education. It creates a cycle of poverty and a cycle of slums. For me, the foundation of it is that you can’t seek to invest in education for girls in sub-Saharan Africa and cut down funding for sexual and reproductive health. If you treat development issues as isolated, you will have the same issues of 50 years ago chasing you into the future.”

Here, the recent cuts to the aid budget make a mockery of these pledges on education: UK funding to the UN Population Fund recently went down by 85%.

There is inspiration to take from this summit, nevertheless; President Kenyatta has been leading the charge not only on education but also on the climate crisis, and there is a solidarity and sense of purpose between poorer nations that may yet inspire greater generosity from donors. Whatever it achieves, though, it will be despite its UK host not because of them.

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[Ticker] US backs WHO plan for further Covid-origin investigation

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US secretary of state Antony Blinken affirmed his country’s support to conduct additional investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 after meeting with the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Wednesday, Reuters reported. “He stressed the need for the next phase to be timely, evidence-based, transparent, expert-led, and free from interference,” a US state department spokesperson said in a statement.

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