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Brazzil - Violence - March 2004

Abuse and Impunity in Brazil

Every 15 seconds one Brazilian woman suffers from domestic
violence (beatings, spanking physical torture) in Brazil. That
translates into 2.1 million cases a year. Is spite of this, Brazil is
still one of the few countries in Latin America and the Caribbean
that does not have a special law dealing with the problem.


More than 86 million women, representing 50.8 percent of Brazil's population commemorated International Women's Day and the official opening of the Year of the Women in Brazil on March 8. The public demonstrations and celebrations were reminders of how little progress has been made in the area of women's issues.

Brazil has a long history of inequality between men and women, which reveals itself in machismo, violence against women and discrimination. A Federal Secretariat of Women and a Special National Commission for Women have recently been formed to deal with these gender issues.

According to a 2003 study by the Perseu Abramo Foundation, working women, with more years of education than men, earn 30 percent less than men for the same job. Afro-Brazilian women earn on average 50 percent of the income of white women and about 35 percent of the income of white men. Politically, women make up only 7 percent of senators and 6 percent of mayors in the country. In the Congress more than 300 projects that would benefit women continue to be tied up in the federal bureaucracy.

Amnesty International (AI) recently spearheaded an international campaign to combat violence against women. According to AI, one billion women, or 1/3 of the women in the world, have suffered physical or sexual violence or some other type of abuse. Twenty percent of women worldwide are victims of rape. Brazil is cited as one of the countries where violence against women continues to be a major problem because of impunity and the merchandising of women's bodies.

On March 8, non-governmental organizations and movements that defend women's rights delivered a proposal for a law to combat violence against women to the Federal Secretary of Women. Brazil is one of the few countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that does not have a special law dealing with domestic violence.

The latest study by the Perseu Abramo Foundation (2003) indicates that 2.1 million Brazilian women suffer from domestic violence (beatings, spanking, physical torture) each year; 175 thousand women each month; 5.8 thousand on a daily basis and 1 woman every 15 seconds. Seventy percent of the aggressors in these cases are husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends of the victims.

The Amnesty International report indicates that, "The Brazil media, at times, stimulates the vision that violence against women is acceptable, even sexy." The proposed law calls for a national policy to combat and prevent domestic violence, police and legal proceedings to deal with the aggressors, protection and legal access for the victims, and ways to combat actions that put the lives of women in risk.

More than 982 representatives from each Brazilian state will meet this summer for the first National Conference on Women's Issues entitled "Policies for Women: Equality from the Perspective of Gender".

In preparatory meetings, along with violence against women and equality in the work-place, the following issues were emphasized:

1. Prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases, especially AIDS (married women are currently at greatest risk in this area).

2. Lack of health care for women. The incidence of breast cancer and deaths of women at child-birth continue to be very high.

3. The role of men and youth in the struggle for gender equality in schools and the work place.

4. Discrimination against Afro-Brazilian, indigenous and lesbian women.

Consuelo Lins, who works with the non-governmental organization SOS Woman, stresses the importance of women being active participants in the discussion of public policies connected to them. Their large numbers in the workplace mean that that there should be better policies and higher salaries.

The good news is that the number of small business women in Brazil grew in 2003. The number is still well below the worldwide average for women but progress is being made.

Comments may be sent to Adital (Agência de Informação Frei Tito para a América Latina—Friar Tito Information Agency for Latin America) adital@adital.org.br

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