Sexuality Policy Watch

Damares in Wonderland

Report from Brazil to the United Nations describes a country that does not exist

213 pages. This is the extent of the report published this week by the federal government on the human rights situation in the country. Based on UN recommendations to the country, the document – in public consultation this week – seeks to account for what Brazil has been doing in the area.

It does not. It is in fact a noteworthy work of fiction.

Prepared by the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, the document describes a non-existent country, sometimes extolling poorly prioritized policies by the government, sometimes ignoring recent setbacks enthusiastically advocated by the Bolsonaro government itself.

Let’s see. While Damares has disqualified the National Human Rights Council as an ideological body that “is far from worrying about human rights”, in her report the minister stressed the supposed administrative-financial independence guaranteed to the Council. The same emphasis is ironically given to social participation in a context of the extinction of federal councils.

To reduce poverty and hunger, which according to President Bolsonaro does not exist, the report dedicates 20 pages. Word banned by Itamaraty at the UN, “gender” is repeated several times in the document. Also mentioned is Ordinance 666, which established summary deportation for foreigners, although the report devoted pages and pages to extolling the Migration Act.

One of the few exceptions to the document’s surrealism is the express mention of the decree that extinguished the positions of experts from the National Mechanism to Combat Torture. Even here, it remained to be argued how such a change would not violate the very United Nations rules that determine the creation of such a mechanism.

If the Bolsonaro government is ashamed of the international community, it also seems to be proud of its own human rights policy. It is in the possibility of international shame that partly lies the very strength of the international human rights system. What to do when leaders are not even ashamed?

That state reports to the international community are somewhat misplaced from reality is not new. In 2017, a preliminary version of the Brazilian report to the United Nations made no mention of the breach of the Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton dam in Mariana, Minas Gerais – which was only corrected after pressure from organized civil society.

What is striking in the report released this week, in fact, is the absence of the human rights policy itself. One can read the document as one who reads Alice (or Damares) in Wonderland.

Speaking of Lewis Caroll, I remember one of the most famous dialogues he wrote. In “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” the character asks, “If we can make words mean so many different things.”

It would be better if the ruler of the country today were honest about the setbacks they bravely promote human rights. At least that way, the words were spoken to the international community could actually mean what they say.

Source: Thiago Amparo, Folha de São Paulo

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