From violence to empowerment: how candidates in the 2022 Brazilian presidential elections addressed women’s rights and gender issues

Analysis by: Democracy Reporting International and FGV Direito Rio


Analysis by: Democracy Reporting International and FGV Direito Rio


  • “Violence Against Women" was the most common political issue of posts from all candidates on social media and of the official government plans submitted by the four presidential front runners;
  • On Facebook, both Lula and Ciro Gomes responded to data about gender violence in Brazil and suggested the previous administration was to blame, while Bolsonaro highlighted the tougher penalties for crimes against women enforced during his term and associated the increase in violence with the “left”;
  • “Empowerment and Representation” was the second most frequent campaign issue analysed from the posts of all 2022 candidates, especially from Soraya Thronicke and Lula e Ciro Gomes; 
  • Only Jair Bolsonaro, Sofia Manzano and Vera Lúcia mentioned “Abortion” on their social networks. While the former president declared his stance against abortion, the two other candidates defended its decriminalisation.

The political landscape of women’s rights and gender in the last presidential electoral period was centred primarily on violence against women, empowerment and representation, political participation, maternity, access to education, and abortion. Each candidate adopted a different approach to women and gender in their campaign, ranging from the former president’s continuous association of women with family and care, to commentary about specific episodes of gender violence covered by the media, made by Simone Tebet, Soraya Thronicke, Vera Lúcia and Sofia Manzano. These are the results of the qualitative analysis of the official platform campaigns of the top four presidential candidates and the quantitative analysis of Facebook and Twitter posts of the majority of candidates carried by Democracy Reporting International and the Diversity and Inclusion Program at FGV Direito Rio.



This report analyses the way in which each major candidate in the 2022 Brazilian presidential election addressed gender and women’s rights in their online communications and government plans during the 2022 elections. Based on quantitative and qualitative analysis methods, we studied the social media posts of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), Jair Bolsonaro (PL), Ciro Gomes (PDT), Simone Tebet (MDB), Vera Lúcia (PSTU), Sofia Manzano (PCB), Léo Péricles (UP), Soraya Thronicke (União Brasil) and Felipe D’Avila (Novo).

We based our quantitative analysis on posts made by the candidates on Facebook and Twitter in period from March 1 to November 30, 2022. We used topic modelling to identify the main trends in social media communications for the candidates. With a database of 8,817 posts on Facebook and 16,424 posts on Twitter, we created a subset of data based on a list of terms related to gender and women’s rights. This list was created by the authors of this report based on discussions encompassing gender, politics, violence and other topics.

The qualitative analysis is based on the review of the official government plans of the four front runner candidates for the  2022 elections — namely: Lula, Bolsonaro, Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes. The goal was to identify their proposals and policies targeting gender and women’s rights issues.



Analysis of the Government Plans 


Each government plan addressed  violence against women, gender pay equity, and investments in day care centres. Each of the four major candidates, Lula, Bolsonaro, Tebet and Ciro, recognized the importance of these issues and their disproportionate impact on the electorate, since the majority of electors are women.


There were also key  differences: only Jair Bolsonaro and Ciro Gomes mentioned pregnancy prevention when addressing sexual and reproductive health. Bolsonaro addressed the “Primary Prevention of Early Sexual Risk and Teenage Pregnancy” and indicated that the main actors in the education of children are the parents, and not the State. Ciro addressed the topic in a general way, in a section focused on women and equal rights.


Additionally, Bolsonaro’s proposal was the only one that did not use the word “gender”, even though it had the highest most frequent mention of  “women”. Lula’s plan was the only one to address “gender identities” and their recognition, and to explicitly address specific demands of Black women. Simone Tebet’s plan distinguished itself by delineating the demand for child care from the need for women’s inclusion in the labour market. Finally, only Ciro Gomes committed himself to placing women in leadership positions, in addition to listing measures for gender equality in the work environment and public service.


Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva


  • There were nine mentions of the words “woman” and “women” in Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government plan. The plan recognizes women as a group that is continuously subject to violence and provides for the implementation of policies aimed at reducing gender inequality in Brazil;
  • This plan references the gender pay gap and addresses the need for higher representation of women in fields such as politics and entrepreneurship;
  • Lula’s plan also called attention to the needs of Black women, both explicitly (combating poverty and police violence) and implicitly (extending legal protection to domestic workers, who are predominantly Black women);


print lula

Top Tweet: “My mother was illiterate, but she taught me never to raise my hand to a woman. We are not stronger, women are often braver than men. We must treat women with respect and equal pay”.

Bottom Tweet: “Lula talks about the importance of Black people in politics and in various sectors of society as a way to fight racism and fight for democracy”. 


Sources: Twitter and Facebook | Elaborated by: Diversity and Inclusion Program (FGV Direito Rio)


  • In reference to Brazil’s LGBTQIA+ population, only Lula’s and Ciro Gomes’ plans addressed the violence targeted at this group. Lula was the only candidate to mention the right to diverse expressions of gender identity;


  • Lula’s plan argues that the lack of protections for the LGBTQIA+ community is in opposition to a complete democracy. Together with women and the young Black population, his plan focuses on protection policies and places them in the context of public safety and security.


Jair Bolsonaro


  • The former president Jair Messias Bolsonaro mentioned the words “woman” and “women” more than three times as many as Lula in his government plan, with a total of thirty three occurrences. On the other hand, there was no mention to the word “gender” or to the acronym “LGBTQIA+”;


  • In general, the mentions are related to the role of women in families, to aspects involving their insertion in the job market, to entrepreneurship, and to their legal protection. The plan mentioned the word “femicide” four times, but there was no mention to domestic violence;


  • The plan expressly links women with the traditional family and emphasises  policies to assist maternity — this includes three mentions to the belief that life begins at conception. In this respect, there were mentions to the programs Mães do Brasil, Pró-Vida and PraViver;


  • Still related to sexual and reproductive health, but focusing on children and teenagers, the plan also referenced the National Plan for Primary Prevention of Early Sexual Risk and Teenage Pregnancy;


print bolsonaro

Top Tweet: “We have the privilege of not having to deceive the people about what our values are in this period: we are in favour of the family, the free market and the right to self-defence. We are against drugs and drug trafficking, media and internet control, gender ideology and abortion”.


Bottom Facebook Post: “Abortion is, above all, the destruction of the future, because there is no future when one does not have the right to exist. Life begins at conception. At this moment we are already who we will always be: unique and with a soul. This is the permanent truth, regardless of whether it is an election year or not.”


Sources: Twitter and Facebook | Elaborated by: Diversity and Inclusion Program (FGV Direito Rio)


  • The Pátria Voluntária program was mentioned to share potential actions designed specifically for mothers of vulnerable people and people affected by disabilities and rare diseases;


  • Considering the women’s inclusion in the labour market and its connection with the domestic labour, Bolsonaro’s plan alludes to specific policies and programmes  for entrepreneurs, such as Brasil para Elas, Qualifica Mulher and Emprega Mais Mulher), to the reduction of wage inequality, and to the balance between work and childcare — enabled, for example, through hybrid or remote work or by expanding the day care network;


  • Like other candidates, Bolsonaro’s plan mentioned the political participation of women, but only briefly and without mention of the low rates of women’s representation still present in Brazilian politics. Seen as a goal to strive for, the “participation of women in Congress” appeared right before the debate about entrepreneurship in his proposal;


  • When addressing the fight against violence targeting women, treated as an urgent issue in his plan, Bolsonaro referenced the National Plan to Fight Femicide, the Casa da Mulher Brasileira project, and proposed the review of 70 laws whose contents defend, protect and promote women. The Mariana Ferrer Law, sanctioned by the former president, was also mentioned.


Simone Tebet


  • Simone Tebet’s plan had the most references to the word “gender” (three), while “woman” and “women” appeared eleven times. The acronym “LGBTQIA+” was used once when addressing the need to ensure equal opportunities for minority groups;


  • Unlike the other candidates, Tebet also linked gender issues with housing policies by indicating a plan to resume the construction of houses subsidised by the State and prioritise families led by women as beneficiaries;


  • Another difference is Tebet’s goal to expand national child care coverage was not linked to women’s inclusion in the labour market. Instead, Tebet linked its expansion to other policies in Early Childhood;


  • On the other hand, like Ciro Gomes, Tebet indicated a policy to expand microcredit programmes for women. Like all the other candidates, she also mentioned incentives for entrepreneurship;


  • To reduce systemic inequality, a key element of her platform, Tebet’s plan allowed for the continued expansion of affirmative action schemes to promote more racial, social and gender equality, with a commitment to ensure parity between men and women in her Ministries – a proposal that also set her apart during the 2022 campaign;



print simone tebet

Top Tweet: “We need a woman to put the house in order and pacify the country. Being a feminist is respecting women and everyone who thinks differently. We need peace and unity in Brazil.”


Bottom Tweet: “Yesterday I attended the Women In Politics event. I spoke about our government plan and the importance of having more and more female participation in public life. We talked about the future of the country and the decisive role of women. The conclusion is that together we are stronger and we will change Brazil.”


Sources: Twitter and Facebook | Elaborated by: Diversity and Inclusion Program (FGV Direito Rio)


  • When addressing health policy, Tebet’s program specified eight priority groups and included and differentiated women’s health from maternal and child health; however, there was no specification of what each policy entails;


  • Tebet’s plan, like Lula’s, made explicit mention of feminicide and domestic violence as crimes that need to be fought. As a proposal, her plan stated the goal to expand the Maria da Penha patrols as a part of the National Pact to Fight Violence against Women.


Ciro Gomes


  • In Ciro Gomes’ government plan, the words “woman” or “women” appeared five times, while the word “gender” appeared one time. Variations of the acronym LGBTQIA+ were mentioned five times, four of which appeared in the section where the candidate makes a commitment to ensure equality for women, the Black population, Indigenous peoples and people affected by disabilities;


  • References to the fight against violence, like in Lula’s proposal, also encompassed women, the young Black youth population and the LGBTQIA+ population as a focus of policies to prevent crimes;


  • Still on that topic, there was an explicit mention to the National Plan to Fight Violence against Women and its inclusion in the National Public Security Policy, based on Law No. 14.330/2022;


  • Regarding the job market, Ciro’s plan stands out from the others by not only addressing the inequality between men and women, but also by explicitly mentioning women’s access to leadership positions in both private and public institutions;


print ciro gomes

Top Tweet: “Today is a good day to remember that looking after the children and the housework is a joint task for the couple. And the equal occupation of the labour market by men and women is the duty of society as a whole. It is in the fair division of rights and responsibilities that we make a better world. Good morning and happy Friday to everyone”.


Bottom Tweet: “Women command two-thirds of my government's budget. So the real commitment is to empower women. I have a whole set of policies that also understand that Brazil still pays a black man 75% of what a white man pays for the same work and the same working hours”.


Sources: Twitter and Facebook | Elaborated by: Diversity and Inclusion Program (FGV Direito Rio)


  • Regarding employability and income, the plan indicates a goal to increase national childcare coverage and implementing microcredit programs aimed specifically at women;


  • Regarding sexual and reproductive health, the document presented by Ciro provides for the implementation of information programs with the goal of preventing pregnancy.


Analysis of the candidates’ social networks: Major topics used in posts discussing gender and women’s rights online


Topic modelling is a data analysis technique to identify and extract significant topics from a large set of unstructured data, such as social media posts. With a pre-trained model, it is possible to identify clusters or groups of words. Based on these clusters, we are able to understand which posts can be grouped, and how they are distributed and related to each other. 


This report took into account all statements made by the candidates from March 1 to November 30, 2022 (including those made before they were formal candidates) dealing with gender issues. The graph below shows the breakdown of the most debated topics on Facebook by percentage, indicating the priorities and perspectives of each candidate when addressing gender and women’s rights issues.


Graph 1: Percentage of posts per candidate per topic related to gender

Period: March 1 to November 30, 2022

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: Democracy Reporting International (DRI) 


Violence against women


  • Violence against women is the only topic that appeared in posts made by all of the candidates. Disregarding the category “Other”, it represents more than 20% of the publications made on Facebook;
  • The candidate Soraya Thronicke made the most statements about the topic, mentioning mostly the provisions of the Maria da Penha Law and the need to fight domestic violence. She also mentioned bills whose goal would be to offer “more effective action” to protect women, such as PL 1.928/2021, which “authorizes the commercialization, acquisition, possession and carrying of pepper sprays and electroshock weapons for personal defense”;
  • In addition, Thronicke also indicated her own contributions to the issue, mentioning funds she raised for actions and projects through her mandate as Senator and legislative proposals she presented, such as altering the Maria da Penha Law (PL 3.154/2019) and increasing protection for victims of domestic violence;  
  • Similarly, Bolsonaro also mentioned more severe penalties for crimes of violence against women in his administration. Although he made no explicit mention to bills that could make it easier for women to arm themselves, as Soraya did, he made general remarks about having increased their right to self-defense; defenderem;


print soraya

Left post from Soraya Thronicke: “Do you know the sad story of domestic violence suffered by Barbara Penna? Barbara is a survivor of a brutal feminicide attempt, and who today fights to save other women from domestic violence. The crime was the inspiration for the bill that I recently presented in the Federal Senate, in which I had the honour to count on the support of Sergio Moro and Rosangela Moro in the construction of the proposal. The bill seeks to strengthen the protection of victims of domestic violence, especially against repeated threats, with the possibility of transferring the aggressor to prisons further away from the victim's residence, even to another state of the federation. 

Enough of violence! Do not be silent, report #Disque180.”

Right post from Bolsonaro: “- This may affect very sensitive people, but it is a truth that cannot be ignored. Violence is indeed everywhere and must be fought against, we have even toughened penalties for crimes against women, the difference is that for organised crime this violence is law.

- It is common to see women being recorded and subjected to absurdly cruel practices that would make any terrorist group jealous. Many pay for trivial reasons, such as living in a place dominated by a faction and being in a region dominated by the rival group.

- There is no environment more harmful to women than those dominated by drug trafficking. To use female figures to soften the image of those who support these practices is not only to collaborate with crime, but to demagogue by manipulating innocent people, who will be the first victims of the criminals.

- While some live on false promises and catch phrases to fool the female public, we have confronted this real evil, toughening penalties for crimes against women, reducing violence, expanding the right to defend oneself, and strongly attacking organised crime”.


Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: Diversity and Inclusion Program (FGV Direito Rio)


  • The former president also implied that the increase in violence rates was associated with the “left”. In at least two occasions, he mentioned “drug trafficking”, “left” and “violence” as correlated topics, indicating that “there is no environment more harmful to women than areas dominated by drug trafficking”;
  • On the other hand, Lula and Ciro Gomes mentioned gender violence indicators in Brazil, such as “one femicide is reported every 6 hours”, to highlight its severity and suggest that the former administration made the situation worse;
  • Regarding domestic violence and the family environment, Lula mentioned that the Maria da Penha Law was sanctioned during his first presidential mandate; that his social aid program Bolsa Família increased women’s income and independence, reducing domestic violence rates; and that women are the biggest victims of gun liberation;


print presidenciáveis lula e ciro

Left post from Lula: “The disregard for women's safety is notable in the Bolsonaro government.” Attached is a picture of former Minister for Women, the Family and Human Rights, Damares Alves with the text “Budget for combating violence against women is the lowest in four years”. 

Top right post from Ciro Gomes: “Only four countries in the world have worse indicators than Brazil for crimes against women. And the fact that we have a president like Bolsonaro only makes this terrible picture of inequality worse”.

Bottom right post from Simone Tebet: “In today's #TBTebet, I remember my visit to the first humanised service centre for victims of domestic violence in Brazil, the Casa da Mulher Brasileira, in Campo Grande/MS. The House was established when I was vice-governor of the state. Today, it welcomes and assists victims. It is an important project that needs to be extended to all of Brazil in order to combat and inhibit violence against women”.


Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: Diversity and Inclusion Program (FGV Direito Rio)


  • All of the female candidates published posts denouncing episodes of gender violence covered by the media in the analysed period, with Tebet and Lula making publications to celebrate the National Day to Fight Violence against Women (October 10). Soraya Thronicke, Vera Lúcia and Léo Péricles also celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25);


  • The frequency of the topic reflects the widespread and structural dimension of the issue, as seen in the following statement made by Vera Lúcia: “There isn’t a day when we don’t watch the news and come across stories of violence against women. It’s appalling. It’s repulsive, disgusting, and there’s a realisation of how difficult it is to fight this sexism that’s so naturalised and rooted in the capitalist system”;


Empowerment and Representation


  • In turn, the second topic mentioned by almost all candidates encompassed posts about female empowerment and representation in a wide sense. There were publications praising female leaders and associating them with words such as “fight”, “strength”, “courage” and “warriors”;



Top post from Ciro Gomes: “Very honoured and thrilled to have this strong, intelligent and warrior woman as our Vice President! Welcome, Ana Paula -- let's go together, with faith and hope to change Brazil.”

Bottom post from Soraya Thronicke: “I have always been a feisty woman in everything I do. In the Senate, I am always ready to be a beast in defence of the people of my state. I don't tolerate disrespect against women and I don't take insults home with me. This is how I face challenges: with a lot of strength and God in my heart. Let's go together! I am in the fight with you”.


Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: Diversity and Inclusion Program (FGV Direito Rio)


  • Soraya Thronicke, Lula and Ciro Gomes had more than 30% of their posts associated with this topic; however, Thronicke stood out with her calls to action and the solidarity of her messages, while her male colleagues seemed to adopt a posture of deference and recognition of women's demands;


  • By praising women in the political field, Thronicke and Ciro Gomes mentioned only those in their respective parties. For instance, Thronicke mentioned the city councillor Flávia Francischini when commenting on an event organised by her to gather women, as well as the actress Maria Paula, a pre-candidate for the Chamber of Deputies in her party. In turn, Ciro mentioned his vice, Ana Paula, as well as the affiliation of volleyball player Leila to the PDT party, and praised the political trajectory of Martha Rocha, a congresswoman for his party in Rio de Janeiro, on her birthday;


  • Some of the posts aggregated in this topic were also directly related to International Women's Day (March 8) and to Mother’s Day (May 8), during which the candidates made celebratory publications.


Women in Politics


  • A similar pattern can be seen in Simone Tebet’s posts about the topic “women in politics”. Leading in mentions to the topic, the candidate made comparisons between her own political trajectory, her involvement in projects to increase the participation of women in politics, and the importance of female leadership. In addition, she sometimes opposed the government of then-President Jair Bolsonaro, indicating that his attitude does not intimidate her and should not intimidate other women;


  • During her official campaign period, Tebet led the mentions to the topic, followed by Soraya Thronicke. Both of them adopted more incisive tones to protect their own candidacies and defend women’s rights in general. After the first presidential debate, Tebet published: “In the Band debate, I bravely defended our candidacy and all Brazilian women. We are not afraid”.


Maternity and access to education


  • Once again, not unlike the analysis of government plans, the posts analysed indicated that the agenda of access to education for children – more specifically, expanding day care coverage – was associated with maternity and the women’s inclusion in the job market;


  • Topics such as  hunger, unemployment and inflation, also arose, contextualising the need to invest in public care policies due to the seriousness of the economic scenario;


  • In this context, Simone Tebet mentioned that there were 3 million children without access to daycare centres and 5 million in extreme poverty, reinforcing her commitment to the protection of Early Childhood;


  • Even though Tebet established an association between early childhood education and maternity in her posts on Facebook, she did so from the perspective that mothers and children deserve specific treatment, as in the case of the program Mãe Brasileira proposed by the candidate. To that end, she also highlighted her role as a mother;


  • Soraya Thronicke also drew parallels with her own motherhood when commenting on the precarious situation of children in Brazil, and her plans to transform it. Lula, on the other hand, referred to his mother's life story, mentioning the difficulties she faced when raising him and expressing a desire that all mothers be able to send their sons and daughters to school during his government.




  • The “Abortion” topic was led by then-candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who openly opposed this dimension of women's sexual autonomy and negatively associated the decriminalisation agenda with the “left”;
  • On the other hand, the candidates Vera Lúcia and Sofia Manzano, who are across the political spectrum from the former president, were the only others to also express themselves explicitly on the subject on their social networks, defending the legalisation;


print presidenciáveis vera

Top post from Vera: “We still have to win access to legal abortion in the public health system, as well as consolidate several achievements of this constituent. But I am very happy for this achievement of the Chilean women and María Rivera Constituent, who was in this battle in the constituent and before it”.

Middle post from Sofia Manzano: “I was the first pre-candidate to defend abortion. For us communists, this is an important agenda. We do not make concessions because of electoral calculations”. 

Bottom post from Sofia Manzano: “Legal abortion is not a moral issue, it is a public health issue. Every year, thousands of women, from all social classes and various religions, have clandestine abortions. The rich come out of their clandestine clinics calmly. The poor leave mutilated or dead”.


Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: Diversity and Inclusion Program (FGV Direito Rio)


  • In their posts, Vera Lúcia and Manzano addressed the consequences of the criminalization of abortion for poor women, contextualising the agenda with legislative changes in other countries such as Chile.




Written by:
Ligia Fabris (Professor at FGV Direito Rio/ Diversity and Inclusion Program)
Victor Giusti (Researcher at FGV Direito Rio/ Diversity and Inclusion Program)
Beatriz Saab (Digital Democracy Researcher at Democracy Reporting International)