A majority of Brazilians believe that a woman wearing provocative clothing “deserves” to be raped, according to the results of a government survey, provoking the ire of President Dilma Rousseff and many activists on social networks. According to the survey by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), 65.1% of 3,810 people of both sexes interviewed on the matter agreed to the following statement: “Women wearing clothes that allow people to see their bodies deserve raped.” Similarly, 58.5% of participants believe that “if women behaved better, there would be less rape.”
The publication of this survey caused an outcry from citizens and activists who have made use of social networks to condemn the idea of assigning sexual violence to women’s way of dressing.
President Dilma Rousseff herself said on her Twitter account that the study shows that Brazilian society has a lot of room for improvement and has called on the government and civil society to work together to prevent violence against women.
For her part, the journalist-activist Nana Queiroz called for an online event on Facebook asking women to post pictures of them scantily clad bearing the slogan “I do not deserve to be raped.” On Friday at 6:00 am, some 20, 000 women posted simultaneously their photos online. “The most surprising thing is that it is permissible to undress during carnival, but not in real life,” protested the journalist while underlining the Brazilian paradox; a country where the cult of sensuality and of the body faces the dominant conservative Catholicism.
In August 2013, Dilma Rousseff enacted legislations to protect victims of sexual violence which have been criticized by the Catholic Church as a first step toward the broader legalization of abortion, a sensitive issue in a country with the largest number of Catholics in the world (123 millions). During the campaign for the 2010 presidential election, Dilma Rousseff had bowed to pressure from Christian churches in engaging in a vow to not decriminalize abortion, disappointing feminists as well as members of the political left. For now, abortion is only allowed in Brazil in cases of rape up to eight weeks of pregnancy or when the mother’s life is in danger.