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Brazil Convenes All-Male Cabinet As First Female President Is Impeached

Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, center, speaks to supporters during the "Women’s March" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, June 2, 2016.

CREDIT: AP/Felipe Dana.

Brazil’s senate recently voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff, the nation’s first female president.

Vice President Michel Temer replaced Roussef and immediately chose a new all-male cabinet that includes no people of color.

While Brazil was already falling behind when it came to female representation, Temer’s new cabinet is a huge step back for diversity and representation in Brazil’s government. According to the country’s 2010 census, about 50.7 percent of Brazilians identified as black or mixed race. The lack of diversity in Temer’s cabinet has sparked backlash throughout the country, as well as around the world.

Temer’s decision to elect only men to his cabinet has set the nation back decades — Brazil’s cabinet last lacked women in 1979, when the country was a military dictatorship.

Many say that Rousseff’s impeachment campaign was fueled by sexism. When the country’s lower chamber voted to impeach the president back in April, people held up signs, reading, “Bye, dear,” while media coverage of the impeachment depicted Rousseff as unfeminine and hysterical. Rousseff herself openly decried the impeachment process as sexist.

“There has been, mixed in all of this, a large amount of prejudice against women,” Rousseff said at a news conference in April. “There are attitudes toward me that there would not be with a male president.”

The United Nations office on women’s rights condemned the campaign against Rousseff back in March.

“As a defender of women’s and girls’ rights around the world, UN Women condemns all forms of violence against women, including the political violence of a sexist nature directed against President Dilma Rousseff,” Nadine Gasman, head of UN Women in Brazil, said.

Rousseff was accused of misappropriating funds to cover budget gaps, but corruption has long been a theme among Brazil’s leaders, including those who charged Rousseff. Few male leaders have ever faced impeachment.

Brazil’s feminist movement has brought the issues of violence against women, the pay gap between men and women, the lack of political representation, and contraceptive and abortion rights, especially in the wake the spread of the Zika virus, which can cause serious birth defects in pregnant women, to the forefront of the national conversation. Many male lawmakers are currently fighting to tighten abortion restrictions in the face of the Zika virus and illegal abortions can lead to jail time for women.

Studies show that sexist political discrimination can discourage women from seeking office or thinking of themselves as leaders. During a recent speech, Rousseff called the senate’s decision a coup and commented that she was proud to have been Brazil’s first female president.

Alexandra Kilpatrick is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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