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
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
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.
(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
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
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
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 LatinaFriar Tito Information Agency
for Latin America) email@example.com