On October 25, 2018, a black female student from the University of Fortaleza (UNIFOR) was reportedly raped off campus after repeatedly receiving racist threats online and offline.
On October 10, the student, whose identity has not been disclosed, reported being harassed by an unidentified man at the university’s entrance. The man allegedly approached her, shouted racist slurs and threatened her with rape. The man further allegedly told her the university was no place for black people and that he and others would “cleanse the university” of “her people” once president-elect Jair Bolsonaro took office. Two weeks after this encounter, the student reported receiving threats via WhatsApp from various phone numbers. The messages allegedly contained racist and political messages and renewed threats of sexual violence. On October 23, the student filed a police report in response to the repeated threats. Two days later, on October 25, the student was reportedly raped near the UNIFOR campus.
The threats and alleged attack occurred against the backdrop of a pattern of violent acts connected with Brazil’s 2018 presidential elections. Reports indicate that supporters of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro have engaged in politically-motivated physical attacks and threats against racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, supporters of Bolsonaro’s political opponents, among others.
As of this report, a perpetrator has not been identified while a police investigation remains ongoing. The Brazilian Bar Association’s Human Rights Commission described the attack as appearing to be politically motivated. UNIFOR issued a statement condemning the attack and offering the student psychological and legal counselling. Students from UNIFOR and other universities in Fortaleza organized a large protest the day after the attack in solidarity with the victim and against violence, discrimination, and political intolerance.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about reports of racially and politically motivated sexual violence against and the harassment of a student apparently intended to restrict the right to education. SAR shares its condolences with the student. State authorities have a responsibility to investigate and hold perpetrators of such violence responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such violence undermines core higher education values, including especially equitable access, and democratic society generally.