Sexuality Policy Watch

Pedophilia, moral panic and abortion rights in Latin America and Brazil

After six months into the pandemic, a striking feature of the condition under which we are working is that time has not expanded, as initially many of us had predicted, but rather shrank. Although we are fixed in one place, the complete virtualization of work and sociability has triggered a spiraling of overlapped interactions that seem to swallow time more quickly than under normal conditions of abnormality. This shrinking and intensification are aggravated in certain environments as, in our case, immersed as we are in the sequential chapters of the Brazilian catastrophe and its perennial emergencies.

This brief preamble is aimed at explaining why we have not been able to keep the regularity of our announcements — which in 2020 became the Sexual politics in times of pandemic Special Issue. We planned to circulate a new issue in late September, but this will not be possible, including because our time and energy were, to a large extent, consumed by an abortion rights episode in Brazil that, despite gigantic political constraints, has assumed the contours of a key turning point in a very long route for reproductive justice in the country.

To fill in this blank, we have decided to circulate a short announcement comprising three articles. Two of them examine the wave of moral panic triggered by pedophilia claims that became viral across Latin America since May 2020, which is different, but not entirely disconnected, from the concomitant eruption of pedophilia conspiration propagated by QAnon in the United States. The first article, Monsters under the Bed is authored by Andrea Dominguez, a Colombian journalist based in Miami who writes for media outlet Sentiido. It looks into Latin American and U.S. trends with a stronger focus on Colombia. Then, in Pedophilia – more of the same?, Sonia Corrêa and Rajnia de Vito examine how the pedophilia wave has manifested in Brazil, through lenses that make connections with trends at play across the Americas. The third article, The case of the girl from Espírito Santo: Is this a new turning point in the long journey for abortion rights in Brazil?, by Sonia Corrêa, recaptures the trajectory of the prominent abortion case in Brazil, which has at its center a ten-year-old girl who got pregnant after being sexually abused by the partner of her aunt for four years. The text looks into the sequence of obstacles and horror shows created by anti-abortion forces, within and outside the Bolsonaro government, to obstruct the interruption of a pregnancy resulting from statutory rape.

Though the topics addressed may, on the surface, appear to be unrelated, they are not.  Firstly, because the conservative forces involved are either the same or strongly connected. In Brazil’s particular case, they decidedly coincide, having as their icon pastor Damares Alves, the head of the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights. Not less importantly, as articulated by Andrea Dominguez in her article, when examining moral panic waves against pedophilia aimed at targeting LGBT communities, it is crucial to point to the disjunction between this discourse and the extensive reality of sexual violence, which predominantly perpetrated by heterosexual males, who are usually relatives of the children who are abused.

Although the articles do not directly focus on the pandemic, the episodes are set in the COVID-19 landscape. They illustrate how anti-gender and anti-abortion forces are not inert in the Americas. In Brazil, a few analysts have raised a hypothesis that the spiral of moral panic would have been triggered as a smoke curtain to distract the public from the carnage of 120.000 COVID-19 death toll in the country. In the U.S., QAnon articulates anti-pedophilia and anti-vaccine discourses in their conspiracy narratives. The Brazilian abortion case is not disconnected from the pandemic either. Even when consistent data does not exist, sexual violence against children and adolescents appears to have increased under quarantine conditions, as the suspension of schools compromises early detection and prevention of abuses.

We wish you good reading!

Monsters Under the Bed

Pedophilia – more of the same?

The case of the girl from Espírito Santo: Is this a new turning point in the long journey for abortion rights in Brazil?

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