The Human Rights, Family and Women Ministry in Brazil will be headed by an anti-abortionist.
The transition team of Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has named the evangelical pastor Damares Alves - an ardent critic of the abortion rights movement, as the future minister of human rights, family and women, which will also oversee indigenous communities and their territories.
Alves, currently an adviser of an evangelical group of legislators and far-right senator and pastor Magno Malta, has been part of conservative movements for years and has pledged to “protect life” once she’s sworn in as minister, promising a Brazil “without abortion, prioritizing public policy for family planification.”
Although Malta is close to Bolsonaro and participated actively in his campaign, he wasn't given a role in the prospective government.
After meeting with Bolsonaro regarding her new position, Alves declared that pregnancy was a problem “that last only nine months, while abortion is a problem that walks with women for life.” According to her, women “were born to be mothers,” but she also spoke in favor of same-sex marriage and declared favor with LGBT movements.
“I understand it’s possible to have a peaceful government between the conservative movement, the LGBT movement and others movements,” she said. “Violence against any person, regardless of the motivation, will be a priority of this government.”
According to Brazil’s information, there are more than a million clandestine abortions in the country every year and 206 women died during them in 2016. Abortion is only legal in Brazil in cases of rape due to serious health risks for the mother or the fetus.
She has also spoken against sexual education in schools, declaring that “the G Spot is an invention of the Education Ministry of the Workers’ Party,” reflecting Bolsonaro’s will to scrap sexual education from public schools and forbid the use of concepts such as “gender perspective.”
As part of his policy of “minimum State,” Bolsonaro has been merging ministries that were of key importance for the previous government aiming to reduce the country’s deficit, but having strong political repercussions.
Instead of having the human rights and the women ministries separate, Bolsonaro is having them together in one super ministry including their “family” concept in it.
The new Human Rights, Family and Women Ministry will also be in charge of the National Foundation of the Indigenous (FUNAI), a previously independent institution that regulates issues related with the indigenous communities in the country.
FUNAI is in charge of protecting the areas inhabited by indigenous groups, including the isolated groups in the Amazon, and is one of Brazil’s last lines of defense against extractivist projects in the territory. Adhering it to the ministry will put it at the hands of Alves and Bolsonaro, both of whom have spoken against reservations because of the limitations to private companies’ interests.
Arguing that Brazil is one and should not be divided in reserves for indigenous people, which make up 13 percent of the territory, Bolsonaro wants to open the reservations for commercial mining and farming and has compared the indigenous territories to zoos, and indigenous peoples to animals.
Alves is one of the founders of ‘Atini - Voz Pela Vida’ (Voice for Life), a group dedicated to adopting and relocating indigenous children from communities and educate them with evangelical christianity. She has an adopted daughter of her own.
FUNAI’s leaders visited Bolsonaro’s team and protested against their decision of including the foundation within the Ministry of Agriculture, as previously announced by the chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni, reclaiming its independence.
Speaking anonymously with The Guardian, a FUNAI official said Bolsonaro’s team had “chosen the worst possible” candidate.
Environmentalists say the indigenous people on the reservations are the best guardians of Brazil's tropical forests and their biodiversity. The issue has gained more importance as the destruction of Brazil's Amazon hit its highest level in a decade, the government said last month.
Damares is the second woman to be appointed by Bolsonaro as minister, after she named Tereza Cristina Costa, the head of a legislative front in favor of large-scale agricultural businesses, as Agriculture Ministry.
Out of 22 ministries, the president-elect has yet to announce the future Environment Minister.