Home Institution

George Washington University

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Brazil: Public Health, Race, and Human Rights


This study analyzed the current actions of feminist movements, black women’s movements, and other advocacy groups that have a stake in the current debate for the legalization of abortion in Brazil. The purpose of the study was to assess the current political avenues for approaching the legislative body available to marginalized groups who are disproportionately affected by the criminalization of abortion. It was built upon a comprehensive review of existing literature, which found very little information on the actions of feminist movements and black women’s movements in Northeast Brazil. The study was conducted over the course of four weeks in Salvador, Bahia. The methodology included interviews with four women affiliated with social movements, academic research organizations, and advocacy groups currently pushing for the legalization of abortion. Participant-observations were also conducted over the course of two days with the Marcha Mundial das Mulheres, an active feminist movement in Brazil. The study found that there is a lack of unity between feminist movements and other segments of civil society, which prevents the formation of a united front for the legalization of abortion. Alternatively, organized efforts by segments of society opposed to the legalization, specifically the Evangelical benches in legislative bodies, have gained strong momentum in recent years and are encroaching on existing sexual and reproductive rights. Furthermore, this study shed light on the issue of abortion as an instrument of oppression that perpetuates gender inequalities and institutional racism within a broader patriarchal society characterized by increasing religious fundamentalism.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Latin American Studies | Race and Ethnicity | Women's Health | Women's Studies


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