Brazil's New President Once Told a Politician She Was Too Ugly to Rape
Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro was elected this week despite his abysmal track record on rights for women, LGBTQ people, and indigenous communities.
Jair Bolsonaro. Photo by Foto Arena LTDA / Alamy Stock Photo
Far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro has been elected president of Brazil in a sweeping victory that could transform the face of Latin America’s biggest democracy.
Until recently, the former army-captain-turned-congressman was a fringe right-wing voice in Brazilian politics. On Sunday, Bolsonaro won 55.1 percent of the vote ahead of his left-wing opponent, Fernando Haddad, and was declared Brazil’s next president.
Bolsonaro has been called “the Trump of the tropics,” but his fans prefer to call him “the Legend.” He has also been described as the “the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world”. His popularity has grown as Brazilian voters grew tired of increasing crime rates, government corruption scandals, and an economic recession with no end in sight.
Bolsonaro has openly praised the country’s brutal former military dictatorship and said that it should have killed 30,000 more people—“If a few innocent people die, that’s alright”—and even dedicated his vote to impeach Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to a military colonel accused of torturing 500 left-wing dissidents. His record on LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and indigenous rights demonstrates the same vicious, narrow-minded prejudice.
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"The president-elect has campaigned with an openly anti-human-rights agenda and frequently made discriminatory statements about different groups of society," Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. "His election as Brazil's president could pose a huge risk to Indigenous Peoples and quilombolas, traditional rural communities, LGBTI people, Black youth, women, activists, and civil society organizations, if his rhetoric is transformed in public policy. With the electoral process now over, we all face the challenge of protecting human rights for everyone in Brazil."
What Bolsonaro says about LGBTQ rights
Bolsonaro’s record of explicit homophobia is deeply concerning for many LGBTQ people in Brazil. Ahead of his election, National LGBT+ Alliance member Rivania Rodrigues told NBC News of the implications for LGBTQ people: "I think Bolsonaro is worse than a [religious] fundamentalist… We’re going to be burned at the stake like people did at another time in history."
Bolsonaro has threatened violence against gay couples and even blamed working women for supposedly causing an increase in homosexuality. When then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was spotted holding a rainbow flag at a same-sex marriage event in 2002, Bolsonaro told Folha de São Paulo newspaper: "I will not fight nor discriminate, but if I see two men kissing in the street, I’ll hit them."
Eight years later, Bolsonaro’s views had hardened even further. "I would be incapable of loving a homosexual child," he said on a television panel for the current affairs show Participação Popular. “I’m not going to act like a hypocrite here: I’d rather have my son die in an accident than show up with some moustachioed guy. For me, he would have died."
Aside from threatening violence, Bolsonaro has continually exhibited an extreme misunderstanding about the implications of homosexuality and how one comes to identify as LGBTQ. In 2011, he told Playboy Brazil: "If a homosexual couple comes to live next to me it will devalue my home! If they walk around holding hands and kissing, that devalues it." Two years on, he told TWTV: "[Homosexuals] will not find peace. And I have [congressional] immunity to say that I’m homophobic, yes, and very proud of it if it is to defend children in schools."
When Bolsonaro met with BBC Out There host Stephen Fry, he was in the midst of attempting to block anti-homophobia laws and education programs in Brazil. In response to the levels of anti-LGBTQ violence in the country, Bolsonaro (inaccurately) told Fry that "the majority of homosexual deaths—they die in drug-related situations, prostitution, or even killed by their own partners," adding that “no father would ever take pride in having a gay son."
In 2016, Bolsonaro met with VICELAND host Ellen Page on Gaycation and told her: "When I was young, talking about percentages, there were few [gay people]. Over time, due to liberal habits, drugs, with women also working, the number of homosexuals has really increased."
He also hit on her for good measure: "You’re very nice. If you were a cadet in the Military Academy and saw you on the street, I would whistle at you. All right? You’re very pretty."
What Bolsonaro says on women’s rights
Bolsonaro has a long track record of disparaging women, including his fellow politicians. In 2003, he even physically pushed Congresswoman Maria do Rosário during a heated argument on Rede TV and told her: "I would never rape you, because you do not deserve it… slut!" In 2014, Bolsonaro attacked Rosário again—this time in Congress itself. As Rosário left the chamber after condemning Brazil’s military dictatorship, Bolsonaro screamed at her to remain in the building. In apparent reference to the dictatorship’s use of sexual violence and rape against dissidents, he then shouted: "I would not rape you. You don’t merit that."
In an interview with GaúchaZH, he expanded: "[De Rosario] doesn’t deserve to be raped, because she’s very ugly. She’s not my type. I would never rape her. I’m not a rapist, but if I were, I wouldn’t rape her because she doesn’t deserve it."
Journalist Patrícia de Oliveira Souza Lélis also said that Bolsonaro has threatened her on a messaging app and provided the transcripts to Brazil’s attorney general. In the messages, Bolsonaro allegedly called her a “whore” and a “vagabond,” and said he would “ruin her life” and “make her regret having been born.” (A spokesperson for Bolsonaro said that he had "never threatened anyone.”)
Bolsonaro strongly opposes legalizing abortion in Brazil—a platform that has helped him win over evangelical Christians voters. In the months leading up to his election, women mobilized under the hashtag #EleNão (#NotHim) and organized large demonstrations in all of Brazil’s 27 states to protest the politician.
What Bolsonaro says about racism and indigenous rights
On the campaign trail, Bolsonaro said that he would be rolling back affirmative action policies that implemented university quotas for poor students and people of color. "I can’t say that I’ll end quotas, because it depends on Congress," he said on TV Cultura network. "At least decrease the percentage." He explained that Brazil did not owe its Afro-Brazilian community anything: "What debt of slavery? I never enslaved anyone in my life. Look, if you really look at history, the Portuguese didn’t even step foot in Africa. The Blacks themselves turned over the slaves."
The comment is typical of Bolsonaro. When Brazilian actress and singer Preta Gil asked in 2011: "If your son fell in love with a Black woman, what would you do?" Bolsonaro laughed her question off. "Oh, Preta, I’m not going to discuss promiscuity with whoever it is," he said. "I do not run this risk and my children were very well raised and did not live in the type of environment that, unfortunately, you do."
In 2017, Bolsonaro also gave a speech that tore into quilombolas, members of rural Afro-Brazilian communities founded by former slaves, who are on the frontline of the fight to protect the rainforest and land rights. He said that the residents of a quilombola he visited were fat, and added: "They don’t do anything! I don’t think they even serve for procreation anymore."