by Silvia Helena Flamini
Master’s Degree student in Graduate Program in Science, Technology and Society at the Federal University of São Carlos (PPGCTS UFSCar) Member of BRaS Research Group in Constitucional Studies
Member of BRaS Virtual/Remote Event
Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling
The 1988 Constitution is a milestone in the Brazilian journey towards a Democratic State that ensures the exercise of social and individual rights, freedom, equality, and the end of prejudice, breaking with a past marked by violence, intolerance, and authoritarianism. It highlights what should be the destiny of Brazil: a socioeconomically developed, fair, and an environmentally balanced country whose pillars of society are pluralism, social participation, and harmony with the peaceful resolution of controversies.
However, there are some convenient caveats in the text that do not deny the socio-political importance of the Constitution and do not devalue it as an achievement of the Brazilian people.
Starting with the language. Although it mentions in art. 5 item I that “men and women are equal in rights and obligations”, it still uses sexist terms and employs a single-gender (male) that appeals to both sexes in other parts of the text. However, there is a justification for such language: historically and culturally we have been used to thinking according to an androcentric conception and a good part of the elements of our society reflect this androcentrism (a condition that has been discussed and repelled by those who defend feminism and the rupture of certain standards).
An example of this is the title “DOS ÍNDIOS” in Chapter VIII, which is under this non-inclusive language and can be replaced by “INDIGENOUS”, whose meaning is “the one or the one that comes from the country, region and locality or simply native”.
Montserrat Moreno, from the University of Barcelona, argues that this androcentric culture has been passed unnoticedly from generation to generation and is considered universal, eternal, or even immutable.
The other point that draws attention in the text of the Constitution is in Article 3, item IV, which brings up the concept of race, which is erroneous when it comes to the human species.
There are no genes to support “racial” differences. There is no biological basis for defining human races. And there is no scientific evidence about the connection between intelligence and geographic origin. The idea of human races is a construct used by those who defended political and social segregation.
Classification into races was proposed by Ernst Haeckel, a German zoologist, and evolutionary biologist, and contributed to racism falsely based on science. In Haeckel’s family tree, the characteristics were selected arbitrarily from the phenotype and a phylogenetic point of view, thus defining the position of human groups. The result of this classification implied that some groups had higher or lower status due to a particular sequence between individuals.
This is a fact that demonstrates scientific non-neutrality and how science, as an inherently human activity, is also subject to manipulation and ideological prejudice, incurrs errors, and rectifies itself through successes.
Evolutionary researchers Martin S. Fischer, Uwe Hoßfeld, Johannes Krause, and Stefan Richter advocate the abolition of the concept of the human race: “The biological justification for defining groups of humans as races – for example, based on the color of their skin or eyes, or the shape of their skulls – led to the persecution, slavery, and massacre of millions of people. The concept of race is the result of racism, not its prerequisite”. The skin color reflects a biological adaptation to the diet or solar radiation and is changeable according to environmental conditions.
We, modern humans, have an African origin of more than 250,000 years, spread out in small groups and due to the numerous migrations made around the globe we carry connections between distant populations in geography. There are no genetic limits that define us, only gradients that occur between groups.
As said, this exhibition does not intend to attack the 1988 Constitution but bring to the reflection that a sexist language brings, veiled, the exclusion of gender and that the concept of race opens up social discrimination. This is a pertinent question that is not just for the Constitution, but it guides aspects of our life towards the construction of a more just and egalitarian Brazilian reality.
FISCHER, M. S; HOßFELD, U; KRAUSE, J; RICHTER, S. Jena Declaration: The concept of race is the result of racism, not its prerequisite. In: Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Available: https://www.uni-jena.de/unijenamedia/universit%C3%A4t/abteilung+hochschulkommunikation/presse/jenaer+erkl%C3%A4rung/jenaer_erklaerung_en.pdf Acess in 06/01/2020
MARIMÓN, M.M. Como se ensina a ser menina: o sexismo na escola. Editora Moderna, 1999, 80p
Silvia Helena Flamini (2021) "Language and concept: what is not noticed in Brazil’s 1988 Constitution". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. Vol. 2 Num. 1. available at: https://bras-center.com/language-and-concept-what-is-not-noticed-in-brazils-1988-constitution/, accessed on: February 26, 2021.