The federal congressman for the Progressive Party (PP), Jair Bolsonaro, has some excellent slogans against human rights. But that is all they are. Behind every one of his ideas – some of them bluntly expressed in the newspaper El País – lie enormous errors and contradictions. If adopted, Bolsonaro’s proposals would not only turn Brazil into an even worse violator of human rights, it would also make the country less democratic and more violent and unsafe for everyone. Although the congressmen will not assume the presidency of the lower house’s Commission on Human Rights and Minorities (CDHM), his ideas against human rights appear to make sense for thousands of voters. If you are one of them, take a look at these five points that could change your mind.
1. ‘I’d rather the prisons were full of bums than the cemetery full of innocents’
Bolsonaro says we don’t incarcerate enough, when in fact prisons have never been fuller. Over the past 20 years, the prison population has increased 380%, while the country’s population has grown by just 30%. Can it be said that security in the country has improved 380% in 20 years? In São Paulo alone, 80 people are sent to prison every single day, according to the Pastoral Carcerária prison care service. Never have we imprisoned as many people as we do now. This illustrates why Bolsonaro’s obsession with criminal justice may seem like a magic solution and even serve people who want to earn money building prisons, but it is doing nothing to help build a safer society and prevent deaths, like he claims.
2. ‘There are 17 year old kids out there who commit crime for sport’
Bolsonaro says that imprisoning children and young people reduces crime. But what he does not say is that laws already exist for young offenders. Just 0.6% of the young people in Brazil’s youth reform system have been convicted for murder, and detention facilities already exist for these people. Furthermore, Bolsonaro fails to mention that these young people will grow up and that, according to Unicef, 6 out of every 10 adult prisoners commit crimes again after they are released. According to the UN, the Brazilian State fuels prison gang recruitment by promoting mass incarceration. Bolsonaro’s proposal would further swell these ranks, deprive children and young people of the right to rehabilitation and force people into an environment that is, by its very nature, unfit for people who are still developing.
3. ‘When you commit a crime you have to pay for it. You shouldn’t be sent to a spa’
Pay, but only to the extent of the law. Torture, mistreatment and overcrowding are not part of anyone’s sentence. In Brazil, according to the UN, the use of torture is already “systematic”. Gangs have emerged inside the prisons with the declared intention to combat these abuses by the State. This produces an endless cycle of violations and retaliations. Many Brazilian prisons are veritable medieval dungeons, which do nothing to help prisoners reintegrate into society after serving their sentences. The fact is that prisons like this do not make for a better society, nor do they contribute to reduce crime and insecurity.
4. ‘I’ve never seen a corpse return to crime’
Indeed. Just like he’s never seen an innocent person come back to life just because his executioner is killed. The death penalty is more about a desire for vengeance than justice and no country where the execution of prisoners is legal can prove that it improves security. The U.S. applies capital punishment and it is also the country with the world’s largest prison population. In Brazil, where the newspapers report on case after case of people who have been wrongly imprisoned, where prisoners do not have access to public defenders, nor the money to pay for a lawyer and where the State fails repeatedly in almost all its essential duties, can we really believe that something as definitive as a death sentence would actually have anything to do with justice? Moreover, given the profile of prisoners in the country, we know that capital punishment would only target the poor, blacks and “pardos” (dark-skinned people).
5. ‘Homosexuals want to cast themselves as victims’
Being struck on the head with a fluorescent lamp for walking hand-in-hand with a person of the same sex on São Paulo’s main business street must be, as far as Bolsonaro is concerned, something of a facade. In Brazil, gays are assaulted for being gay. The congressman pretends he doesn’t know that gays suffer the same insecurities and are the target of the same violence as heterosexuals, but who, in addition to this, are also persecuted because of their sexual orientation, which is absolutely inadmissible.
If issues like these make you think again, perhaps the articles below can provide even more decisive arguments for society to reflect on its own dilemmas. After all, serious issues like these need much more than just slogans:
10 steps to stop Brazilian prisons being medieval
Conectas and partner NGOs deliver “urgent measures” to the lower house of Congress to remedy one of Brazil’s worst human rights disgraces
Inacceptable, Illegal and Inefficient
Crisis in Maranhão exposes the flaws of the Brazilian prison system
New Drug Law tougher on blacks and the poor
Conectas warns of the distortions in the bill