The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Brazil

By Vexen Crabtree 2022

#Brazil #equality #freedom #human_rights #politics #tolerance #venezuela

Federative Republic of Brazil

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index47th best
LocationSouth America, The Americas
Life Expectancy72.75yrs (2017)2

Brazil does relatively well in ensuring human rights and freedom, compared to many other countries. Brazil comes in the best 20 in terms of LGBT equality3 (the highest in The Americas) despite the current reign of self-proclaimed homophobic president Jair Bolsonaro4, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice5 (one of the best in The Americas) and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights6. It does better than average in terms of the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators)7, speed of uptake of HR treaties8 and in commentary in Human Rights Watch reports9 (but low for The Americas). But, things could still be better. Brazil does worse than average in supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms10, opposing gender inequality11, supporting press freedom12 and in freethought13.

Brazil was on the right track regarding religious freedom - persecution was rare14,15. But the election of illiberal Jair Bolsonaro in 2018 meant "Brazil is [now] governed by a Christian-extreme-right authoritarian [with Bolsonaro's] speeches filled with openly and harsh misogynistic, racist, anti-LGBTI+ and anti-democratic views"16. The police are involved in far too many unlawful killings and the mistreatment of detainees also seems to be increasing17.

Women were already poorly protected and abortion is far too heavily restricted; as a result, many women and girls seek out illegal and unregulated abortion clinics - of the estimated 416,000 abortions in 2015, fewer than 1,700 were legal. In 2016 a congressional committee moved to prohibit abortion under any circumstances17.

Progress is always going to be difficult in a country where the rich and the poor experience utterly different lives: the richest 1% hold 28% of the country's entire income18.

1. Brazil's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to The Americas (2020)19,20
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank19,20
3Costa Rica36.7
The Americas Avg74.2
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)19,20
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank19,20
5New Zealand17.5
World Avg87.7

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark19. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu19.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe19, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia19.

For more, see:

In 2016, the Ministry of Labor identified 885 cases of workers subjected to abusive conditions that under Brazilian law rise to the level of "slave-like," such as forced labor or degrading working conditions [and] from December 2014 to December 2016, it imposed penalties on 250 companies for employing people in "slave-like" conditions.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)17

Chronic problems plague Brazil's criminal justice system, including unlawful police killings and mistreatment of detainees. In Rio de Janeiro, killings by police are approaching record levels. In January 2017, more than 120 inmates were killed in gang-related violence. ... Police officers, including off-duty officers, killed 4,224 people in 2016, about 26 percent more than in 2015, according to the Brazilian Forum on Public Security. ... Human Rights Watch has documented scores of cases in the past decade where there was credible evidence of an extrajudicial execution or a cover-up that were not properly investigated or prosecuted. ... Domestic violence remained widespread; thousands of cases each year are not properly investigated. [...]

In January, more than 650,000 adults were behind bars in Brazil, according to the National Council of Justice. The latest official data about overcrowding, from 2014, showed facilities housing 67 percent more inmates than they were designed to hold. Overcrowding and understaffing make it impossible for prison authorities to maintain control within many prisons, leaving detainees vulnerable to violence. Health[, education] and legal services are deficient in many prisons.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)17

On a positive note, Brazil has formally helped thousands of Venezuelans as they flee from repression and has been calling "for the re-establishment of democracy in Venezuela", and in May 2016 passed a new migration law allowing non-citizens to access public services (including education and health) and the right to join union.17. Along with 11 others, Brazil signed the Lima Declaration in 2017, condemning "the assault on democratic order and the systematic violation of human rights in Venezuela"21.

When it comes to Freedom of Speech, a legal provision against "disrespecting" public officials has been continually abused, with soldiers using it against protesting civilians, and military police using it to quash criticism, including in online comments. The same restrictions are used against the police themselves if they complain, criticize current procedures or seek reform.17

2. Human Rights & Tolerance Data Sets

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)9
Pos.Higher is better
The Americas Avg-0.8
World Avg-1.9

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)6
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
The Americas Avg16.5
World Avg15.1

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag (2019)8
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Yrs/Treaty8
5Costa Rica4.05
The Americas Avg8.45
World Avg10.02

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)10
Pos.Lower is better
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
79Trinidad & Tobago79
The Americas Avg72.4
World Avg79.7

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)22

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom (2013)12
Pos.Lower is better12
The Americas Avg2853
World Avg3249

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted".

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Slavery (2018)23
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims23
5New Zealand0.06
The Americas Avg0.25
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory24. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends25. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life26. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves27.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery28. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity29. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.30. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi23, Eritrea23, Indonesia31) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery32.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality Data Sets

Brazil has made some steps towards ending gender inequality but much more needs to be done.


Abortion is far too heavily restricted and many women and girls must seek out illegal and unregulated abortion clinics - and then legal fines if they are found out. Of the estimated 416,00 abortions in Brazil in 2015, only 1667 were legal. In 2016 November, things looked to get worse, as "a congressional committee approved a bill that would prohibit abortion under any circumstances"17.

Implementation of Brazil's anti-domestic violence legislation, the 2006 "Mariada Penha" law, is lagging. Specialized women's police stations have insufficient staff, are mostly closed during evenings and on weekends, and remain concentrated in major cities. Thousands of cases each year are never properly investigated, according to available data.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)17

3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality (2015)11
Pos.Lower is better11
90S. Africa0.39
The Americas Avg0.39
World Avg0.36

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

For more, see:

3.2. Gender Biases

#gender #gender_equality #prejudice #women

Gender Biases (2022)7
Pos.Lower is better
2New Zealand34.434
33Trinidad & Tobago87.433
The Americas Avg82.90
World Avg83.93

The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) looks at gender biases across seven criteria; the % given here is for the total people who are biased across any of those criteria. By subtracting the value from 100%, you can see that those who do well on this index, you are seeing a count of those who do not appear to be biased against women in any of the criteria, and so, doing well on this index is a very positive sign for any country.

The data was included in UN (2022) with full results in Annex table AS6.7.1; their data stems for ranges between 2005 and 2022, depending on the country in question.

3.3. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
43Myanmar (Burma)1935
The Americas Avg1947
World Avg1930

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice Data Sets

4.1. Anti-Semite Opinions

#antisemitism #christianity #germany #indonesia #israel #jordan #judaism #laos #morocco #netherlands #pakistan #philippines #religion #religious_violence #saudi_arabia #spain #sweden #turkey #UK #vietnam

Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)5
Pos.Lower is better
The Americas Avg29.7
World Avg36.8

Anti-Semitism is the world given to irrational racism against Jews. It is not the same as anti-Judaism (involving arguments against the religion) nor the same as anti-Zionism (arguments against Israel). In history, influential Christian theologians concocted the arguments against Jews that led, very early on, to widespread Christian action against Jews35,36,37,38. As Christianity rose to power in the West and presided over the Dark Ages, there were widespread violent outbursts against Jews of the most persistent and horrible kind. The Crusades were frequently aimed at them and the feared Spanish Inquisition paid Jews particular attention. The horror of the holocaust instigated by German Nazis in the 1940s was followed (finally) by the era of European human rights and a movement against racism in general.

The places that are the least anti-Semitical are a few countries of south-east Asia (Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam) and some of the secular liberal democracies of Europe (Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK). The worst countries for antisemitism are Islamic states of the Middle East39, which are undergoing their own Dark Age. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey see the most oppressive and violent actions towards Jews40,41. Jews in Muslim countries face a host of restrictions and "ceaseless humiliation and regular pogroms"42. In 2004 the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia reported on violent anti-Jew crimes in the EU and found that that largest group of perpetrators were young Muslim males43.

For more, see:

4.2. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)3
Pos.Higher is better
7S. Africa78
The Americas Avg26.1
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence44. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws45. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries44. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.3. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Freedom of Thought (2021)13
Pos.Lower is better13
4Sao Tome & Principe1.3
125Dominican Rep.3.3
The Americas Avg2.7
World Avg3.0

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights46. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish47. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era48 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted49. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief50. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands13,51 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia13,52.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed53. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief47, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion54 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"55 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

Until 2018, Brazil was clearly on the right track when it comes to religious tolerance and freethought. In 2011, academics Grim & Finke stated that "religious freedoms are assured [and] violent religious persecution is rare and no single religion can lay claim to the authority or power of the state"14. Likewise, this is what the Freedom of Thought Report said in 2012:

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of conscience, religion or belief, which is guaranteed under Article 5 of the constitution. The law provides penalties of up to five years in prison for crimes of religious intolerance and enables courts to fine or imprison for two to five years anyone who displays, distributes, or broadcasts religiously intolerant material. It is illegal to write, edit, publish, or sell literature that promotes religious intolerance.

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)15

But Brazil wasn't destined to have steady progress into modern civility, and election of Jair Bolsonaro in October 2018 meant that a staunch conservative popularist was now in power - i.e., someone who will happily oppress any group whose beliefs don't match his own:

Throughout his election campaign, Bolsonaro presented himself as the defender of traditional Christian moral values [and] his election has ensured that Brazil is governed by a Christian-extreme-right authoritarian agenda [with Bolsonaro's] speeches filled with openly and harsh misogynistic, racist, anti-LGBTI+ and anti-democratic views.

"The Freedom of Thought Report" by Humanists International (2021)16

Brazil has previously fallen very far from what is ideal after infamously persecuting Jews in the 1600s, causing the first movement of Jews to New York in 165456.