For the movements for more women in politics, the month of June in Brazil was intense.
With a political reform underway that calls into question the reduced progress of the participation of women in parliaments, which should be voted on soon, and under the leadership of a female deputy, it was necessary to face the fact that female representation already weakened Brazil is under threat.
Despite several advances in terms of spaces occupied by women, the country oscillates between last and penultimate place in Latin America in terms of female representation.
Achievements and challenges of political representation
Even with women’s suffrage guaranteed by law since 1932 – it is therefore on the verge of completing 90 years of history -, and with constitutional quotas since 1995 for legislative positions (outside the Senate), the country is not managed, to date, to exceed 15% of federal deputies, which places you in less than honorable positions in international rankings, such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
According to the map of the participation of women in politics in 2020, produced by this organization in partnership with UN-Women, Brazil occupies the 142nd position, out of 193 nations, in the ranking of female representation in Parliament.
The reason for the absence of women can be explained by several reasons, including the design of quotas, open-list voting and the high cost of campaign finance.
On the other hand, the proportional system and our intense multi-party system, with 33 parties in conflict, would be aspects that would stimulate the participation and election of women.
In this context, with air coming from neighboring countries like Mexico and Argentina, groups fighting for women’s political rights began to repeat movements aimed at parity.
Bills such as 5.250 / 2019, for example, provide for gender parity in Senate nominations.
Also in 2019, a proposal was presented, dubbed the “Marielle Franco project” (a councilor assassinated in 2018 in Rio de Janeiro), to guarantee 50% of the seats to women in all Brazilian parliaments.
Although the Brazilian scenario was never conducive to the approval of these proposals, it would never have been imagined that the wind would blow with such opposite force and that the wave would be one of change for reduction – not l ‘expansion – spaces.
Two years later, last June, the discussion focused on the risk of approving the constituency vote, with a crucial change for women: the guarantee of 15% of seats in parliaments.
The absurdity of the 15% reserved for women in politics is something that can be understood in different ways.
To begin with, this is already the current percentage of women deputies in the Federal Congress. Very low, it is lower than what has already been achieved during local elections. After the 2020 elections, women became, on average, 16% of councilors in Brazilian cities.
A second point that should be emphasized is that reserves turn into ceilings, that is, from even experience with quotas, we already know that when there are no incentives clear and well established to change, parties maintain their cycles of power around leaders who already have an office.
To reserve 15% of the seats is to condemn our destiny to maintain – and not to expand – the presence of women in politics.
Threat to rights already conquered
Finally, the decision could threaten a fundamental advance made recently by the coalition of different movements of women in politics, elected officials and the Higher Electoral Tribunal (TSE).
In 2018, by working together, candidates were guaranteed 30% of public campaign funding (in Brazil, political campaigns are funded by the state).
In the event of change due to political reform, this institutional advance could be threatened, which is at the origin of part of the observed increase in the number of women MPs elected in the 2018 elections – they went from 10% of the Federal Chamber at 15.%.
The congressional women’s caucus, which has a more conservative profile, has always been known for not aligning itself with the agendas of sexual and reproductive rights, in other words, the right to abortion.
Faced with this impossibility over the past decades, the work of the feminist movement, to a large extent, has had to turn to ensure that there is no step back in legal permissives for termination of pregnancy.
However, three agendas converged more within the women’s bench: guaranteeing equal pay; the priority and the urgency to fight against violence against women (although with different conceptions of public policies of containment and reduction); and the need to increase the participation of women in political spaces of power.
The latter is closely linked to the difficulties they encounter in seeing their symbolic power called into question in such a predominantly male environment.
Until now, it was understood that in these three areas it was possible to establish a convergent dialogue between the Conservative and Progressive MPs who make up the women’s bench.
However, the latest movement, with the possibility of political reform that threatens the small and slow progress made by women in nearly a century of women’s suffrage, supported by several conservatives, forced the women’s movement to march in. another meaning. .
Again, instead of spending hours thinking about the most effective strategies for garnering support and securing votes to achieve parity in Congress, it was necessary to readjust the containment strategy, which in this case is to avoid the reduction of places for women in politics, in conflict with members of Congress themselves.
Academics, deputies and representatives of the third sector had to meet again, with the heavy task of stopping a possible delay.
As we wipe the ice, advancement and parity continue to wait, into a future no one knows when it will arrive.