Councilwoman Marielle Franco (Socialism and Freedom Party -PSOL) and driver Anderson Pedro Gomes were shot dead on Wednesday night in the neighborhood of Estacio, downtown Rio de Janeiro.
Marielle had just left the “Black Female Youths Moving the Structure” and when she was near the municipality, a car stopped by the side of her vehicle, shot several times and fled the scene. A press officer, that was in car as well, suffered a minor injury.
Marielle was born in the Complejo da Mare (a group of slums in Rio). She was a defender of the human rights of black people and denounced the mass murderer of youths in favelas (slums). In February, she started her participation in the commission that oversees the military intervention of Rio. Three days before her murder, Marielle denounced the involvement of police officers in the deaths of youths in the city.
Rio de Janeiro’s police is investigating the murder and is evaluating the theory of an execution. The police identified at least 9 shots in the car. In response to this situation, several actions were organized on Thursday the 15th in different cities across the country. In a few hours news of Marielle’s assassination spread across the world and became a clear demonstration of the political moment Brazil is currently living.
Below is an interview conducted with Marielle Franco by Mariana Pitasse of Brasil de Fato, on March 8, 2017 when the activist began her term as councilwoman in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
“Being a black women is to resist and survive all the time”.
Rio de Janeiro’s Councilwoman Marielle Franco (PSOL) had one of the most celebrated elections of the city in recent years. She is a woman, black, born and raised in the Complejo da Mares, a human rights defender and a sociologist. Marielle was the fifth most voted candidate for the local government legislature in 2016. After her inauguration of January, Marielle presented several projects that aim to strengthen the rights of women. One of them is the bill “Making Use of Legal Abortion”, which has an objective to train professionals to inform and guarantee the care of women who have the right to abort -in cases of anencephaly, risk of death and rape. In the International Women’s Week, Marielle talked with Brasil de Fato about the challenges and the need to debate about feminism and about some proposals for her term.
Brasil de Fato: Why is important to talk about feminism?
Marielle: To guarantee that women aren’t left in secondary positions. To avoid the status of invisibility that is relegated to us by many. To be able to occupy major roles. On March 8 it is important to take the streets, to make our speech public, because as long as women are speaking, the debate about feminism, gender, racism is at stake and it makes a difference.
BdF:- On your facebook page you recently described the racist incident you suffered in the airport with an abusive magazine. How difficult it is to be a black woman in Brazil?
M: – Being a black woman is to resist and survive all the time. People look at our bodies diminishing us, they investigate if we have lice or drugs under our turban, they deny our existence. What I went through in the airport has happened to many black women before me. We could do an objective investigation on how many white men and women had their hair checked, and the answer would be zero. We are exposed and we are victims of violence every day. In order to broaden the discussion it is essential to understand that we occupy a different place. It is necessary to recognize racism.
BdF:- Women work an average of 7.5 more hours than men per week, according to the investigation done by the Brazilian Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA). Despite this, the retirement reform proposes the same amount of worked years to retire. How do you evaluate this proposal?
M:- How can they treat women in the same way in regards to retirement if we are treated differently every day? We, women, are at the base of the pyramid, with the lowest salaries, working double hours and yet they want to treat us the same at the time of retirement. This is a speech on equality that only benefits their interests. We must remember that we are at a subordinate position, not just as a symbol. The objective data of the investigations shows this. Unfortunately, women are still in a vulnerable situation.
BdF: -In the International Women’s Week, you held several debate activities on feminism in Rio de Janeiro. How did these activities work?
M:- We handed informational pamphlets, and held public classes and debates. Most of the time we had good support, but unfortunately there always is a level of resistance. I believe that people, in general, are wary about politics. So there is a rejection towards political pamphlets. But regarding feminism and when we talk about the elimination of women’s rights, people can identify. If we ask ourselves, who suffers the most with the retirement reform? The answer is the poorest women, who are doing outsourced and manual work. When we talk about this, women stop and pay attention. And we are able to have a conversation with them.
BdF: – How does the “Make use of Legal Abortion” bill work in practice?
M: – It is a program that deals with a controversial issue, but we are not defending the legalization of abortion at the local government, even though it is one of the principle causes of PSOL at the national level. What we propose is to guarantee the public service to treat women. In the case they are a victims of rape, have their lives at stake or are pregnant with an anencephalic fetus, women have the right to abortion so they should receive the proper assistance. We want professionals to get the correct education so that they don’t criminalize women, regardless whatever personal opinion they have. We need to break away from this logic. The State must guarantee the right care for women, if not, they will have double the suffering while aborting. We already have over 8,300 signatures supporting the project.
BdF: – What other projects are directed towards women for your term?
M: – The “Owl Space” project, which is for extended child care during the night. It is not a project just for women, but for the families, but we know that in Brazil the responsibility for children lays almost exclusively on women. We have also advanced the debate about the visibility of trans women, by demanding the gender recognition of one of our parliamentarian consultants in the legislature. We are doing an investigation to identify more demands and do more for women. Our term, and my own, has just began…
Edited by: The Dawn News