Lula launches policies to promote equal pay and protect women

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The Brazilian government on Wednesday announced a package of 25 measures aimed at addressing gender-based violence and economic inequality women face in celebration of International Women’s Day. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was flanked by 11 female members of his cabinet, First Lady Rosângela da Silva, and former President Dilma Rousseff, among other female politicians, at a ceremony held in the presidential palace.

The measures include a decree requiring government contractors to reserve 8 percent of their jobs for women who have been victims of violence, a special credit line for women entrepreneurs, free distribution of menstrual pads by the public healthcare system, and steps to combat gender-based violence.

During the administration of former President Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022), resources for policies to combat violence against women dropped by 94 percent, according to the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies, compared with the four years prior.

One of the most significant measures is the submission of a bill to guarantee equal pay for women who perform the same functions as male colleagues. Although there is already a rule on the subject, it has been largely ineffective. 

Women earn on average 78 percent of what men do in the same job, with an even greater disparity in leadership and management positions, where women earn on average 62 percent of their male counterparts’ salary. Women’s Minister Cida Gonçalves believes that the equal pay policy could add 0.2 percentage points to the Brazilian GDP. 

The proposed legislation would increase fines for employers who violate the rule and propose tougher inspections. In his speech, Lula emphasized that the initiative would be different from previous efforts because it would be “mandatory.”

“Nothing justifies gender inequality,” Lula said. “Not biology, medicine, or anything else,” adding that “women want equality, not superiority.” He received applause from the female audience as he noted that “the more women advance, the more the country moves forward.”

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