A few hundred protesters championed for women’s rights along the famed Copacabana beachfront in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday.
During the city’s annual SlutWalk parade, brazen sign-bearing and body-painted women and men professed their objections against the government’s policies against discrimination and violence against women. SlutWalk is an international movement, spurred by a well-publicized incident where a Toronto policeman proclaimed that by not dressing as sluts, women can avoid sexual assault.
For instance, Brazilian women have long complained about verbal and sexual abuse on city streets, on the beach, and in the subway. Responding to incidents where women have been harassed and groped underground, the Rio de Janeiro government has assigned certain cars for women only, but only during limited, rush hour periods.
However, most alarming to these proponents are Brazilian “femicide” statistics which are among the worst in the world. One women is assaulted every 15 seconds, and one murdered every 2 hours, according to the United Nations.
In March, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff established a policy of zero tolerance towards violence against women. A preventive law was penned that tightened the criminal code by defining femicide as any crime where women are victims to domestic violence or discrimination.
Yet, demonstrators still have much to rally about. Just a few days earlier they took to the streets against a newly introduced Brazilian bill which, if passed, would require women to prove they were raped to have an abortion. Further, the proposed legislation would require physical or psychological harm be proven to justify a sexual violence case.
Recognizing this issue’s importance, the International Olympic Committee funded $600,000 USD in September to support a United Nations initiative “One Win Leads to Another” to promote empowerment in young women. Through a set of youth sports programs, messages about non-discrimination and non-violence will be instilled. IOC President Thomas Bach said, “Our strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, has targeted gender equality as a key goal and this project will deliver in a very concrete way working with young women through sport,” he added.
Program funding and passed government legislation are strides towards combatting these injustices. Still, despite these reform measures, it may take years for social norms towards women to adjust.
In the run-up to any Olympic Games, advocacy groups will certainly seize advantage of this world platform to draw attention to humanity issues – then Brazilian women’s rights will likely take center stage as the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics approach.