A group of men gathers around a girl, one grabs her arm and try stealing a kiss. She refuses it and the group shouts: “slut, slut, slut“.
The scene, in the historic town of São Luiz do Paraitinga, 115 miles from São Paulo, should be labelled as harassment, but it is common during Carnival in almost every part of Brazil.
In an attempt to stop aggressive behaviour towards women, three Paraitinga residents bought and distributed whistles to females, who should blow it in case they felt intimidated by men.
The initiative “Apito Contra o Assédio” (“Whistle Against Harassment”) is one of a few recent examples of how women are fighting against normalized violence in Brazil.
“I believe information is important”, said Lia Marques, one of the founders of the campaign, in an interview with BBC Brasil. “Harassment is a culture, they [men] believe it is normal, they are used to it. But actions such as this one will help people to understand how this [behaviour] is disrespectful.”
This Wednesday a group of women in Rio de Janeiro took the streets with the parade “Mulheres rodadas” (Women who have been around). The title mocks a slang expression used by Brazilian men to humiliate women about their sexual history.
The parade is supporting the campaign Carnaval sem Assédio (Carnival Without Harassment), launched by website Catraca Livre.
Bringing light to the issue is necessary
A survey by Instituto Data Popular, a think-tank based in São Paulo, shows that almost half of Brazilian men believe that carnival parades are not for “decent women”.
Sixty-one per cent of the men surveyed also said single women taking part in carnival couldn’t complain of being flirted with.
Debates around violence against women gained a boost last October, when thousands of Brazilian women shared their stories of harassment under the hashtag #firstharassment (#meuprimeiroassédio).
The campaign was launched by São Paulo-based journalist Juliana de Faria after a 12-year-old contestant of MasterChef Junior was the target of sexualised online abuse during her appearance in the TV show.
In the chart below from Google Trends it is possible to see the spike in searches for both the terms “harassment” (assédio) and “violence against women” (violência contra a mulher) in mid-October, period when the the #firstharassment hashtag was launched.
Such initiatives illustrate how women in Brazil are fighting against a topic deeply buried in Brazilian society.
With mobilization on social media and honest testimonials, women are bringing to light daily cases of abuse suffered by females across the country.
Carnival is just another stage to gather attention to a topic that can no longer stay in the shadow.