1. Why are some anthropologists opposed to dialogue between different cultures and all types of interference?
Many anthropologists are bound by radical Cultural Relativism and a romanticised vision of “cultural purity”. According to Ana Keila Mosca Pinezi (anthropologist, teacher and doctor), from the São Paulo Federal University (ABC Paulista), cultural relativism represented for a while an anthropological theory that enjoyed a certain prominence and answered every question related to cultural standards.

“Relativism is opposed to extreme ethnocentrism” she explains, referring to the thought patterns that classified values of so-called white civilisations as superior to any others – an obvious misconception. “However, today it is known that relativism is a theory, among others, and cannot be held as an absolute truth, capable of resolving issues on different cultural values.

2. Are indigenous societies entitled to change some aspects of their culture?
Culture is dynamic and every society is in a constant process of change. According to Eli Ticuna, the indigenous Indian is “the subject, architect and the key constructor of his culture.”

According to Dr. Keila Pinezi, “Cultural changes in the heart of a society, are inevitable. Even more than this, it is a healthy way for the society to survive and continue the ongoing process of constructing its identity. (…) Inter-ethnic contact can propitiate progress and open new horizons for societies to rethink their values and practices.”

3. Do indigenous societies worry about the issue of infanticide?
There have always been, within indigenous societies, people who disagree with the child sacrifice. This can be verified easily in historical records and ethnographic surveys. There have always been women, mothers, who preferred to make a stand against tradition and decided to raise their children. Some paid dearly for the decision that they made, but nevertheless, fought to exercise their autonomy.

In the last few years, several initiatives from natives of various tribes, confirm indigenous societies’ desires to abandon the practice of infanticide. We can mention the “Kunumim Xingu’s House” project, coordinated by six of the leaders from the Xingu Indigenous Reservations, who intend to shelter children who are rejected in their own villages.

There are cases of Suruwaha women, who have become nationally known for their fight for their babies’ lives. An interesting case is that of the indigenous woman Kamiru Kamayurá, who rescued a baby that had been buried by his own mother, and who is fighting to convince women from her village to abandon this practice. For her attitudes, Kamiru was publically honoured in an official ceremony in National Congress in May, 2007.

4. What type of actions could be adopted in the eradication of infanticide?
Respectful dialogue between different societies is a powerful agent for change. Whatever actions that are taken with the aim of eradicating infanticide, should come preferably from inter-ethnic talks and from the indigenous communities themselves. Natives such as Eli Ticuna, Pajé Kajabi, Iré Kajabi, Kamiru Kamayurá, Mateus Terena, Otacília Lemos and others should be empowered so that they may act as legitimate agents of change and social transformation.

The Child Protection Council could hold seminars and train indigenous activists to defend children’s rights, so that they, provided that the law and protection mechanisms are known and understood, might establish thes dialogue with indigenous communities.

5. Every Brazilian child has the right to count on the protection of the law. Is it different with regards to indigenous children?
The right to the protection of life is a fundamental right and does not depend on the child’s ethnicity. The right to life for indigenous children is already guaranteed by law, as much by international legislation (the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Brazil is a signatory nation), as by the Brazilian Constitution and the Statute of the Child and Adolescent (ECA).

Even the question of conflict between the right to cultural diversity and the fundamental human rights was resolved through the passing of Decree 5051, signed by President Lula on the 19th April 2004. This decree explains that the traditional indigenous practices should be preserved as long as they don’t violate the fundamental human rights such as the right to life.

6. But does the Statute of the Child and Adolescent apply to indigenous children?
The indigenous lawyer and Director-General of the Defense of Indigenous Rights of the Brazilian National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), Vilmar Guarani, is very clear about his position. In the lecture “Judicial Aspects for the application of the Statute of the Child and Adolescent for Indigenous People in Brazil”, his position was decisive regarding the application of the ECA. According to the document from the workshop “The Statute of the Child and Adolescent and Indigenous Youth Populations”, held by CONANDA (National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents) on the 22-23rd of November 2004, Vilmar Guarani “showed the understanding that the Statute of the Child and Adolescent is applicable to indigenous peoples, with exception of their uses, customs and traditions conforming to the Federal Constitution and international legislation.

7. In what way can the Muwaji Law, which became known as Law Project 1057/2007, help in the eradication of infanticide?
It’s clear that the problem of the continuation of the practice of infanticide isn’t basically a judicial issue, but a bioethical issue. Even so, initiatives such as that of Congressman Henrique Afonso, from PT (Brazilian Worker’s Party), who comes from Acre State and has an aim to support the indigenous cause, can help.

The Muwaji Law proposes the compulsory notification of cases where children are at risk of infanticide. The lack of reliable data is, without doubt, one of the biggest obstructions to the eradication of this practice. The Muwaji Law also proposes an implementation of human rights educational programs in the indigenous societies and the deepening of inter-ethnic dialogues, with the aim of guaranteeing the quality of life and dignity of children who are vulnerable in their own communities.

Furthermore, the Muwaji Law, even before being approved, is already stirring up interest of the issue in society as well as the national and international media, such as the English newspaper The Telegraph, the English magazine Reveals, BBC London, a documentary by the Dutch TV station EO, as well as the Brazilian magazines Veja, IstoÉ , Folha de Sao Paulo and others. The deepening of this debate, in itself, has already produced fruit in society’s understanding of the importance of the application of the principle of absolute priority, professed by the Federal Constitution and by the Statute of the Child and Adolescent, in the defence of Brazilian children, independent of their ethnicity.

“Our culture is not static, nor is correcting bad things the same as violating our culture. The violation is to continue to allow that children are being killed.”
Débora Tan Huare, Wapishana, representative of the COIAB’s (Coordination of Brazilian Amazonian Indigenous Organizations) Department of Women

“The law is not a magic wand. But without it, it is difficult to encourage people’s wills.”
Paulo Sérgio Pinheiros, political scientist.

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