RIO DE JANEIRO – Thousands of people took to the streets of Brazil’s largest cities on Friday to mark International Women’s Day and denounce gender violence and sexual discrimination.
Brazil has the fifth highest rate of femicide in the world, and last year elected right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly used rhetoric widely seen as sexist and racist.
A wave of protesters clad in purple called for an end to gender based violence, equal pay and abortion rights. There were also loud calls and chants for increased female solidarity among the demonstrators, most of whom were women.
In the last year in Brazil, more than 16 million women above the age of 16 faced some kind of violence and of them, 536 were victims of physical aggression every hour, according to a study released in February by the Brazilian Forum of Public Security and the Datafolha research center.
Many demonstrators carried banners and wore shirts paying tribute to Brazilian councilwoman and activist Marielle Franco, who was assassinated almost a year ago in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, a crime that remains unsolved. Franco was a vocal defender of human rights and critic of police brutality in Brazil.
Demonstrators also carried a bust of Franco as well as one of Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, another icon of feminism in Latin America.
The black feminist movement was also strong represented at the rally in Rio.
One of the protesters, Silvia de Mendoza, told EFE that she had joined the protest to “claim her right to fight against fascism and for the life and rights of women.”
While it was a primarily feminist march, there was also a strong anti-fascist sentiment, with chants against the current president Bolsonaro heard throughout, as well as clear support for former left-wing president Lula Da Silva, who was jailed last year on corruption charges.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, the demonstrations to commemorate International Women’s Day started around 6:30 pm in front of the iconic art museum in the city (MAFF), where slogans were chanted against President Jair Bolsonaro, pension reform and violence against women.
More than 11,000 Brazilian women have filed report of violence to police in the first two months of this year, a 19.9 percent increase compared to the same period last year, the government said Friday.