Palmed Off

Today we go to Brazil for a look at the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, the country’s first female head of state.

01 Dilma Rousseff

She served as the Chief of Staff to her predecessor in office, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, before resigning in 2010 so that she could run for the presidency herself. President Lula doesn’t seem to have been entirely pleased about that:

02 dilma palmadas do lula

‘This is what you’ll get if you lose the election,’ he tells her. But in the event she won, their party stayed in office and Brazil’s progressive future was assured.

One of the big, long-fought political battles of her presidency was over the Lei da Palmada, which aimed to made it illegal for parents to spank their children, and seems to have made it compulsory for Brazilian satirists to spank female politicians. The bill was proposed by Congresswoman Teresa Surita:

03 Teresa Surita

And if you’re an attractive lady championing a decent, progressive measure, you have to be ready for a right-wing backlash:

'This will teach you to make the right kind of law!'

‘This will teach you to make the right kind of law!’

A lot of the cartoon fallout from the Lei da Palmada is of no interest to us, but an intervention in 2011 by the controversial right-wing Congressman Jair Bolsonaro is worth our passing attention. ‘If this bill becomes law,’ he said, ‘the next step will be to ban flip-flops’ (or Hawaiian sandals, as they are called in Brazil). The humble flip-flop quickly became the emblem of the pro-spanking right, and a cartoonist showed the egregious Bolsonaro putting one to use in, according to him, the best possible way: on the rear end of Teresa Surita!

05 Bolsonaro spanks Surita

But law-making takes time. After several years of controversy, the bill was finally passed by the Senate in 2014, with the demonstrative public support of the television personality and social activist Xuxa Meneghel.

07 Xuxa08 Xuxa 2

One person who disapproved was Congressman Pastor Eurico.

'You deserve a round of applause!'

‘You deserve a round of applause!’

The Lei da Palmada was duly signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff in May 2014.

09 dilma signs the law

And here’s what she got from public opinion:


But never mind, she did also get re-elected that October!

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