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Brazil celebrates 85 years of women’s vote.
This year, Brazil celebrates 85 year of women’s vote, starting with the establishment of the first Electoral Code in 1932. Decree No. 21.076, adopted by the provisional government of Getúlio Vargas, in its Article 2 ensures the right to vote for both genders: “The voter over 21 year of age, without distinction of sex, enlisted in the form of this Code”.
However, it was not until 1965 that full equality of electoral rights and duties was achieved between men and women, when enlistment and the act of voting became mandatory for all. At the beginning, the enlistment of women who were not employed was optional. That same year, the TSE issued a resolution setting a one-year deadline for all women to join without exception.
According to the historian of Superior Electoral Court (TSE) Ane Cajado, before that, in 1927, the Electoral Law of the state of Rio Grande do Norte provided in its Article17: “In Rio Grande do Norte, all citizens who meet the conditions required by this law may vote and be elected without distinctions of sex”. At the time, 15 women enlisted and participated in the election for the position of senator, but the Senate credentials committee considered the votes unsuitable: it understood that although the Constitution provided this right to the states, it was not a tradition to have women in politics. Celina Guimarães Viana, born and raised in Mossoró (RN) is named as the first woman to enlist. “This was the first great example of a formal attempt by women to enlist and vote,” explained Ane.
Already in 1928, Luiza Alzira Soriano was elected, also in Rio Grande do Norte, in Lages, as the first female mayor in Brazil and in Latin America. She competed for the Republican Party and won with 60% of the vote.
In the elections organized under Getúlio Vargas for a Constituent Assembly, in 1934 and 1935, the first female congresswoman, Carlota Pereira de Queiroz was elected. An important representative of women in the fight to win the vote, feminist and biologist Berta Lutz was elected the first female deputy, representing the Federal District.
The achievement of the female vote in Brazil has a great relation with movements that took place all over the world. Brazil was not alone. The first country to guarantee the female vote was New Zealand, in 1893, followed by England in 1918, and United States of America in 1920. According to Ane Cajado, the strategies used by women in different countries to ensure this advance are related to their traditions. In England, for example, they were extreme actions, with many prisons and violence.
“Here in Brazil the actions were physically less violent, because the very intelligent women used articulation with parliamentarians, in an organized way. However, these women were morally abused by the newspapers, had their personal lives were devastated by this option of struggle; they were ridiculed by the press at the time, and suffered constant attacks,” said the historian.
Women are gaining ground in Brazilian politics, and they have become more involved not only as electors but as candidates. However this representation is still below expectations. For the Justice Luciana Lóssio of TSE,” Brazil is experiencing a very large female under-representation, and the Electoral Justice has for some time been very aware of this problem that Brazil is facing. Our Constitution affirms: men and women are equal in their rights and obligations”.
Although the country's current electorate is made up of a female majority - of the more than 144 million voters, 52,20% are women - the number of women elected in the 2016 municipal elections is still much lower than that of men. Of the 57.814 city council members elected in the whole country, only 8.441 are women. For the position of mayor, 640 women and 4.845 men were elected.
Law 9.100 of 29 September 1995 is considered as a milestone in the consolidation of women’s participation in politics. Paragraph 3 of article 11 provides that “At least twenty percent of the vacancies of each party or coalition shall be filled by candidacies of women”. Parties were obliged to reserve vacancies, but they had no obligation to fill them. Only in 1997, with the approval of article 10 of law 9.504, of September 30, 1997, were women really contemplated. It provided that, “Of the number of vacancies resulting from the rules provided for in this article, each party or coalition shall reserve a minimum of thirty percent and a maximum of seventy percent for candidacies of each sex”.
The 2015 Electoral reform (Law No. 13.165/2015) stipulated a greater value to be invested through the use of the Party Fund to encourage female participation. According to the new text of article 44, item V of Law 9.096/95, at least 5% of the total value received by each party should be invested in the creation and maintenance of programs that promote the participation of women in politics.
Specifically with regard to election campaigns, article 9 of said Law states that parties must reserve at least 5% and a maximum of 15% of the resources of the Party Fund for electoral campaigns to apply in the campaigns of women candidates. It also requires that the free airtime given to parties promote and spread women’s participation, allocating to women the amount of time to be determined by the national party leadership body, with a minimum of 10%.