RIO DE JANEIRO: Women will take to the streets in cities across Brazil on Saturday in a wave of protests against the candidacy of the right-wing frontrunner in next week’s presidential elections, Jair Bolsonaro.
Marches organized by a social media campaign under the hashtag #EleNao (Not Him) are planned in around 80 cities, including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The 63-year-old former army captain has been branded racist, misogynist and homophobic by his detractors.
Supporters laud his tough stance on tackling Brazil’s rising crime rate and his pledge to protect traditional family values.
“Women of Brazil, women outside Brazil, all women, it’s time to join in,” said Ludimilla Teixeira, one of the organizers. “Either we join now to fight or we’re going to gather to mourn later.”
The women’s campaign was launched in early September with a Facebook group “Women united against Bolsonaro”.
It called on women from all political persuasions to come together “against the advancement and strengthening of machismo, misogyny, racism, homophobia and other prejudice.”
The hashtag went viral, gaining more than four million follows.
“We cannot allow fascism to advance in Brazil,” Teixeira said, calling Bolsonaro a “disastrous” candidate.
Bolsonaro is recovering in hospital after being stabbed and seriously wounded by a left-wing activist during a rally on September 6.
He recently angered women by seeking to justify a yawning wage gap between female and male employees.
The candidate has previously argued against employing women if it was likely they would become pregnant.
One of the activists in the campaign, actress and singer Leticia Sabatella, said Bolsonaro was “an extremely fascist, racist, homophobic, candidate.”
“He underestimates women, underestimates homosexuals, underestimates blacks,” said actress Caroline Abras, one of dozens of celebrities backing the “Not Him” campaign.
Demonstrations are planned in around a dozen other countries, including Australia, the United States, Canada, France, Spain, Argentina and Portugal.
“There is no record of such a broad mobilization of women,” in recent Brazilian history, said analyst Ligia Fabris Campos, of the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
Joao Feres Junior, professor of political science at Rio de Janeiro’s State University, said the women’s movement was making gender an election issue in Brazil for the first time.
“It is women themselves who are reacting as women to a candidate, not to support a candidate, but as citizens faced with a political project that excludes them,” he said.
Right-wing women supporters are planning a rival pro-Bolsonaro rally in Rio de Janeiro.
With a week to go before the October 7 election, Bolsonaro leads the latest opinion polls with 27% support to 21% for his nearest rival, leftist Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad.
Those two are expected to go head-to-head in a second round run-off three weeks later.
Haddad is a replacement candidate for former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is in jail for corruption.