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In Brazil, a Culture of Violence Sees Wife-Beating as No Big Deal

Violence against women in Brazil “In Brazil a woman gets hit or beaten up every 15 seconds. As long as the hitting or beating up takes place at home, people think it is not that serious.” Those are the words of a beautiful judge, Vanessa Ribeiro Mateus, who just took office as head of São Paulo State’s judicial branch in charge of domestic violence against women. 

Vanessa is married, 33, has no children, and was born in Santos, a city in Sao Paulo’s seaside. She is the first woman to occupy such an important position in Brazil.

The special branch is the only one that can provide women with everything the law requires: psychological help, social workers, a place for children, women’s shelters, etc. The law in question is called Maria da Penha, to honor a battered woman who got paraplegic, read more about it here.

The branch allows the same judge to handle both the civil and the criminal case. They can keep husbands from seeing their children; provide separation from bed and board, refer women to NGOs, etc. Unfortunately, most women do not seek help when they are being beaten up by their husbands.

They themselves think it is okay to get hit around every now and then; it has become part of the culture itself, but luckily, this culture is changing, not only because of the law, but also because Brazilians are being made aware that it is not okay to hit women and children.

Many people from several countries and cultures think it is okay to hit the weaker, I’ve never thought so. I am against hitting women and children. I know many will go against me on this issue, they’ll find reasons to justify hitting children, even in the bible: “spare the rod, spoil the child”. But I think children learn to be violent from their parents. I’ve never hit mine and he’s great.

There is an expression in Brazil, “Ele bate, mas é trabalhador” (Eli bahti, maiZEH traballyadOR). “He hits, but he is hardworking (a good provider). Not only do women use that expression often, but their family, friends and lots of people around them use that as well.

So there is kind of an idea that if a man is a good provider, he can hit his children and wife. I believe Brazil is not the only country with that kind of culture, but my purpose here is to talk about Brazil.

Because of this philosophy, among others, women won’t report their beating husbands. They are afraid they’ll get stuck with their children with no one to take care of them and so they choose to put up with it.

They are therefore willing victims as well because they don’t think they can be successful in life on their own, they need a man to take care of them. Many that get hit think like that. They get into a psychological cul-de-sac because of a total lack of self esteem that gets worse every year they stay in the relationship.

I’d say most people in São Paulo think it is okay to hit a child to make them obey, or for their own good, etc. And women talk too much and irritate men and they should be put in their places. People who think like that should be living in a cave, but I hear that every day.

I was hit by a woman once, and I showed her I could beat her up, but didn’t, I just held her and kept her from hitting me and made it very clear I could beat her up, but I chose not to.

This woman is what Brazilian’s call “mulher de malandro” (moollier di mahLUNGdroo). A mulher de malandro is a woman who teases men, nags them no end and practically begs to be hit.

Or at least, that’s what many men say about women who won’t do anything about it if hit. And of course, there are those who are secretly into S&M and will in fact pick up a fight to hit and get hit. They find it exciting, that’s the case of the woman I mentioned.

And there are women called “Amelia” (amEHlia), they are called so because of a very old song. Amelia is regarded as a woman who will accept a man no matter his circumstances. She won’t go away just because he has no money or is going through hard times, etc.

But it took on the meaning of a woman who will stay with a man no matter how much crap he puts her through. So, it is common for a woman to say to another she is an Amelia because she will stay with a man even though she is mistreated every single day. And a man will call women who put up with their crap Amelia, too.

Galinha (gaLING-ya) is a slut, but now they call guys galinha, too. So galinha (chicken) is not associated with cowardly behavior as it is in the English-speaking countries. Here a chicken is called “bunda mole” (bOONGda mAWli), (soft ass).

Anyway, some men are regarded as “corno manso” (kORnoo MUN-soo), a guy who stays with a woman even though she cheats on him all the time. They are called “manso” “tame”; because they apparently know their wives are cheating on them and won’t do anything about it.

But until recently, a guy could beat up a woman and allege she was cheating on him and practically nothing would happen to him because authorities called beating up or killing a woman under those circumstances “legítima defesa da honra” (lezhEEtima defEza da ONG-ha), legitimate defense of the honor, in other words, you have the right to beat up or kill a woman if she is cheating on you. But things are changing and it is very hard to get away with murder by claiming that now.

Anyway, I think it is a cowardly act to take advantage of the weak, and I know many women will say, “Hey, don’t call me weak!” The fact is, physically, most women can’t beat up a man. I’m not talking about intellectuality or anything like that here, I’m talking about physicality. And I know martial arts, so for a woman to beat me up, it would be very hard anyway, even if I weren’t stronger, in most cases.

A lot of guys hit women because of a lack of self esteem. Why don’t they try to beat someone their own size? They’d get whipped if they tried, so they think it is nice to be the big guy somewhere. Many of them beat their family up when they are drunk and then get really sweet the following day to make up for it.

I think an opponent has to be strong enough to give me glory by defeating them. What’s the point of beating someone who doesn’t deserve the name of adversary? But I guess men in Brazil hit women and children because they can.

The same way a dog licks his balls, because he can. Some men have fast hands, in other words, they hit pretty fast if the child or woman doesn’t do what he wants, democracy, outside the walls of their home, not inside.

So I sure hope that beautiful judge and the law in general put a lot of guys in prison to change this aspect of our culture forever, and good riddance to it.

José da Silva, this article’s author, lives in São Paulo. He is Brazilian and works as a teacher and translator, as well as a freelance subtitler and editor for several TV channels. Check out his blog on http://brazilinenglish.wordpress.com.

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