Today in Brazil, the bill 1057 known as “Muwaji Law”, was approved at the Human Rights Committee at the National Congress, which seeks to protect indigenous children at risk for being born with physical or mental disability, being twins, daughters of single mother or for other reasons determined by the tradition of each indigenous people. In some ethnic groups such children are still at risk of being rejected, abandoned in the woods or killed by members of the family, due to internal pressure. In some of these communities there are reports of more than 200 children killed in these conditions.

The bill was named after Muwaji, the first indigenous mother from a remote tribe called

Muwaji and her daughter Iganani

suruwahá, in the Amazon, who fought for her daughter’s life who was born with cerebral palsy, going against the traditions of her tribe of burying the baby alive. After her, many other indigenous families were inspired to fight for their children’s rights to live.

The practice of infanticide in some indigenous tribes in Brazil got international attention in 2008, after a controversial movie “Hakani” by the  international filmmaker, David L. Cunningham, telling the true story of a a survivor of infanticide.

Indigenous leaders with Congresswoman – Brasília, Brazil

In spite of some opposition worldwide, the movie helped to launch a national movement for the approval of the “Muwaji Law”.

The bill was first proposed in 2007, finally approved by the Committee of Human Rights, with the assent of the Congresswoman Janete Pietá.

With this bill approved, the brazilian government has to offer to the indigenous tribes the access to be informed and to public policies of health and education, so that they will not fell pressured to kill their babies.

Congresswoman Janete Pietá – Brasilia, Brazil

According to the proposal, governmental programs aiming at stopping infanticide will be done after intense dialogue with the community leaders. This will avoid imposition in the indigenous cultures.

I spoke to brazilian Attorney Damares Alves, main activist in defense of the children’s rights at the Congress. She was celebrating today with a group of the indigenous leaders believing that this bill will benefit a lot of indigenous children in the country, and guarantee that the fundamental right to life will be respected.

Damares also believes that this can model how other countries will deal with the same issue of indigenous infanticide, for the right to life.


Photos by Bruno Mancinelle

Text by Nadia Otake