Although women are a majority in Brazil (50.77 percent of the population),
and the main users of the country's public health system (Sistema Único
de Saúde, SUS), as the victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults
they have also become a serious public health problem. That is the main result
of a study by the World Health Organization, in São Paulo and the backlands
(Zona da Mata) of the state of Pernambuco.
The study found that in
both São Paulo and the Pernambuco backlands women who are victims of
violence are three times as likely to consider suicide as women who are not
victims of violence. Around a third (36 percent) of the women who are injured
in domestic violence need medical care.
As a result, and as part
of International Women's Day activities, the government has now made it mandatory
for hospitals and first aid stations to report cases of violence against women.
In the future, the public health system will be authorized to perform abortions
in cases of risk of life or rape. And the ministry of Health says that over
the next three years it will expand its facilities for assisting female victims
of violence by 30 percent.
The Chamber of Deputies
has just installed a special commission that will discuss activities to give
women easier access to health and education services and the labor market,
as well as guaranteeing the fight against domestic violence. The commission
is temporary in character and will function just in 2004, which is the Year
The commission was created
in February for the purpose of expediting the work of the female bloc in Congress
and selecting projects that establish or expand women's rights. There are
currently around 300 projects on women's rights under consideration in the
Chamber. The commission will be made up of one woman from each party.
A group of female rural
workers has just started a national movement called Movimento de Mulheres
Camponesas do Brasil. The event is part of celebrations of International Women's
Day and brought together some 1,500 women at an outdoor camp in Brasília,
Brazil's capital. In a document released by the movement, they call for greater
participation of female rural workers in making decisions on farm policy.
According to a report
from the International Labor Organization, the number of women in the job
market rises every day, but the unemployment rate for women remains high while
their salaries continue low. The ILO says that 60 percent of the 550 million
poor workers in the world are female.
The ILO report also says
that the progress of women in obtaining high-level positions is "slow,
unequal and, at times, discouraging." The report, entitled "Global
Employment Trends for Women 2004", says that in 2003, 40 percent of workers
were women; a total of 1.1 billion out of 2.8 billion. That is an increase
of 200 million in the last decade.
The reports indicates
too that in Latin America and the Caribbean, the unemployment rate among women
is 10.1 percent, compared to 6.7 percent for men.
Paula Menna Barreto works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at email@example.com