SAO PAULO, Brazil, Jun 2 – Thousands of Brazilian women protested against a “culture of rape” they blamed for the shocking case of a 16-year-old girl allegedly sexually assaulted by more than 30 men.
Protesters flooded central streets in cities including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, carrying signs with slogans such as “We are all bleeding” and “Not the victim’s fault.”
The largest rally was in Sao Paulo, where more than 5,000 women marched.
Brazilians have been outraged by the gang rape case, which came to light in an online video that showed the bloodied girl naked and seemingly unconscious on a bed, as a man boasts that she has been “impregnated” by more than 30 men.
Three suspects have been arrested — the last one on Wednesday. Police are hunting three others.
The video was made on May 21 in a Rio de Janeiro favela, one of the poor and often lawless neighborhoods that dot Brazil’s largest cities.
The nationwide protests came a day after the Senate passed a bill increasing the penalties for gang rape and criminalizing rape recordings.
But many Brazilian women see little hope in politics.
One slogan at Wednesday’s protests was “Fight without fear” — a play on the name of acting president Michel Temer, whose surname means “fear” in Portuguese.
Temer has come under fire for appointing an all-male cabinet after sidelining suspended president Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first woman president.
The acting president ditched Rousseff — his former running mate — as her foes in Congress moved to impeach her for allegedly fudging the government’s books. He will serve in her place until a final ruling in her impeachment case.
Temer’s secretary for women’s policy, Fatima Pelaes, is an Evangelical Christian who said in 2010 she opposed abortion even in cases of rape.
She said in a statement Wednesday that she would nevertheless keep her personal views out of debate on the issue.
Heavily Catholic Brazil allows abortion only in cases of rape, brain damage or danger to the mother’s life.