Human rights watchdog in Brazil urges punishment for lawmaker over rape comments to colleague

The Brazilian government’s human rights watchdog said Friday it has asked the Attorney General’s Office to file a criminal complaint against a lawmaker who said he wouldn’t rape a female colleague only because she didn’t “deserve it.”

The National Human Rights Council, which operates under the auspices of the office of President Dilma Rousseff, said it had asked prosecutors to bring legal action against Jair Bolsonaro, a congressman from Rio de Janeiro state, over remarks he made earlier this week on the congressional floor and later to a magazine.

Addressing representative Maria do Rosario, who had previously presided over the National Human Rights Council, Bolsonaro said she had called him a “rapist” during a prior altercation, then he added: “I only wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it.”

In its statement, the Human Rights Council said Ela Wiecko, an official from the Attorney General’s Office, promised to take swift action against Bolsonaro. Lawmakers in Brazil enjoy parliamentary immunity, which protects their speech, opinions and votes. However, the immunity would not apply to Bolsonaro because he made similar remarks later in an interview with a newsmagazine.

The statement did not provide any details about what charges Bolsonaro could face. But a report on G1, the Internet portal of Brazilian television network Globo, said they could include “inciting discrimination or prejudice based on race, color, ethnicity, religion or national origin.” It said those charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison as well as a fine.

Atila Roque, who heads the Brazil branch of Amnesty International, said Bolsonaro “crossed the line of what is acceptable.”

“This particular congressman has been for a long time already a provocateur, particularly on the areas of sexual rights, of women, of the LGBT population, of people who stand for other values. He has consistently been prompting violence and misogyny and sexism,” said Roque. “It is time for the Congress to say ‘enough’: he has gone beyond the freedom of expression of anyone in this country.”

A March study by the government research agency estimated that some 527,000 people are raped per year in Brazil, though only around 10 percent of them report the attacks to the police.

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