A female lawmaker who was once told by Brazil’s presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro that she was “not worthy” of being raped said on Thursday that she fears for her country if the far-right candidated triumphs.
“With what has happened to us women, with what happened to me… we fear that (a Bolsonaro victory) would legitimize even more violence” against women, Maria do Rosario told AFP in an interview. The runoff vote is in 10 days.
“Brazil is the champion of violence done to women,” said the 51-year-old member of the leftist Workers Party.
It was in the Chamber 15 years ago that Bolsonaro, a seven-term deputy, disdainfully told do Rosario that “I would not rape you, because you’re not worthy of it” as cameras recorded his insult.
The comment was made during a debate on a bill that would stiffen criminal punishment for minors following a vicious attack on a couple by teenagers.
With the recording of his words playing across TV networks, Bolsonaro later said he had reacted after alleging that do Rosario had called him a rapist.
But in a 2014 interview, he reiterated his insult and expanded on it. “She doesn’t deserve to be raped because she’s very ugly. She’s not my type. I would never rape her. I’m not a rapist. But if I were, I wouldn’t rape her because she isn’t worth it,” he said.
Bolsonaro’s latter comments earned him a conviction that he took on appeal to the Supreme Court.
The controversial remarks are still being used against him by detractors, and are in evidence in protests organized to show female resistance to his presidential bid.
According to a non-governmental organization, the Brazilian Forum for Public Security, 4,473 women were murdered in the country in 2017 and 60,018 were raped.
“Just imagine if this violence were institutionally encouraged,” do Rosario said.
Bolsonaro is running on a law-and-order platform, promising to ease gun laws so armed citizens can defend themselves.
But do Rosario said: “These weapons — we know that they’ll be turned against women, against blacks, gays, lesbians.”
Bolsonaro has also held out proposals of chemically castrating rapists, and has tweeted that women “must be respected and protected.”
The 63-year-old former paratrooper looks likely to win Brazil’s highest office. He easily won the October 7 first round election against 13 other candidates, and on October 28 he is the favourite against his closest rival, the Workers Party Fernando Haddad, a former mayor of Sao Paulo.
Do Rosario, who was the minister for human rights between 2011 and 2014 when the Workers Party was in power, was re-elected in the general election that also took place October 7.
But she, like politicians from several parties of all stripes, has been caught up in a cascade of corruption allegations that have snared Brazil’s political and corporate elite in recent years. She is under investigation for allegedly receiving $35,000 from a construction group, Odebrecht, for her 2010 election campaign.