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Year: 2008 Type: Book Chapter Language: English

Contemporary feminist activism in Brazil emerged in a moment of political upheaval, playing an important role in the process of re-democratization of the country and stretching the very concept of democracy in this process. Over the last three decades, feminisms in Brazil have brought important contributions, not only in terms of a change of values regarding women’s place in society, but also towards building a more gender equitable society in formal terms. However, formal power structures, such as those of the legislative, judiciary and executive branches have remained notoriously resistant to the inclusion of women, which has resulted in a major paradox for Brazilian feminists: on the one hand, the presence of a wide and well articulated women’s movement, and on the other, a notorious absence of women in decision making positions. One of the consequences of this state of affairs is that the feminist movement in Brazil still lacks a “critical mass” of women to push forth the implementation of new state institutions and policies, and there is also little support in the legislative and judiciary to guarantee greater advancements insofar as women’s sexual and reproductive rights are concerned. This paper addresses these issues as it highlights the major achievements - as well as the shortcomings and challenges - of feminist struggles in contemporary Brazil. In so doing, the authors hope to show that meeting these challenges will not be an exercise free of tensions; they have been an integral part of the outstanding capacity of feminism in Brazil to “diversify,” thus the need to use always the plural and speak of Brazilian “feminisms.”