Details from DataFolha’s latest study, “Visible and Invisible: The Mistreatment of Women in Brazil,” reveal that roughly 12,000 women are victims of some form of violence each day in Brazil.
Each hour some 503 women are victims of a moral offense, physical violence or unwanted touching. Two out of three Brazilians have witnessed these acts and other forms of aggression against women.
The most common form of harassment, according to the survey, is disrespectful comments on the streets.
The study was commissioned by the Brazilian Forum of Public Safety and undertaken between February 11 and 17. Approximately 2,000 people were surveyed, of which over 1,000 were women.
Ben Hur Viza, a federal district judge ruling on cases of violence against women, stated that oftentimes victims don’t file reports due to fear of being considered culpable or blamed for the attack.
“Why did he attack you? Why didn’t you say no or why didn’t you leave the relationship if he hadn’t previously attacked you? Such questioning transfers the blame from the man to the woman,” Hur Viza said.
Fernanda Silva was married for 20 years and was frequently attacked by her husband.
“We’d argue and he always beat me. I lost my job twice because of this. My eyes and parts of my body were red. I didn’t have the courage to report him because of my family and my child with autism,” she said.
Like Silva, 60 percent of attackers were current or ex-partners or husbands of victims. Nevertheless, 52 percent of these victims didn’t file police reports. Only 11 percent of women even went to the police station and 13 percent sought help from family members.
Just last year, Brazilian black women who suffered violence have chosen the Organization of American States (OAS) to report the escalation of violence against them.
While the number of white women murdered decreased 9.3% in ten years (2002-2013), the number of black women murdered has increased by 54.2% over the same period, according to data from the dossier on violence suffered by black women in Brazil produced by Geledés and Criola organizations.
Nilza Iraci, member of the Geledés, explains that “the dossier is the result of a report presented to the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reporting violations and violence suffered by Brazilian black women.”
The document reports many different cases of violence, like victims of obstetric violence, lesbian, transgender, and transvestites murders, and institutional racism in the justice system, religious intolerance, and racism on the internet, in addition to violations suffered by the mothers of young black men killed.
The initial report – gathering data and stories – was presented to the OAS last April, when recommendations were also submitted to the entity, among them, they have requested the visit of an agent to the country to examine the alleged violations.
OAS Commissioner Margarette Macaulay, rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, came to Brazil to analyze the situation.
“They have endorsed our recommendation and sent Margarette Macaulay to talk with these women who are mentioned on the dossier, talk about their situations.” said Nilza.
Maria da Penha Law
“At first it was all wonderful. He was a very nice person who showed great affection and respect for me. Until the first slap. And from the slap, he beat me, hit me with a rifle butt, I have a scar on my face. Then there was verbal, psychological humiliation, physical humiliation.”
This is how Maria Aparecida da Silva Souto, pedagogue, 48, began to tell the routine of her first marriage, the daily violence she had to quietly endure for a long time.
More than twenty years later, she still gets moved when talking about the topic, but she believes things have changed, especially because of Maria da Penha Law, a law created to reduce domestic violence. “It took a woman to almost die for us to have this right to shout and speak out.”
The Maria da Penha Law helped reduce violence against women, however, violence against black women has only worsened. The dossier shows that, in deaths for physical aggression, black women account for 64% of women victims of murder in Brazil.
The dossier also considers that, despite a specific legislation, such as Maria da Penha Law, in addition to policies, programs, and networking services designed to denounce this violence, “there is no mechanism to combat racism, its impact on violence committed against black women, and the institutional racism embedded in these actions.”
“In 2015, Brazil passed Law 13,104 on feminicide, which highlights the murder of women related to gender inequalities in the country. However, these laws and other instruments related to violence against women disregard the inequities caused by racism and the complexity of violence suffered by black women,” the dossier points out.
“What’s behind those numbers? What is the actual situation of women who are violated, raped, or of mothers, trans, lesbian, what is behind it? And from there, [we should] try more effective government’s action, I’m sure that the government will be asked to give answers,” said Nilza.
Women Blamed for Rape
In a survey conducted by Institutes Avon and Locomotiva, presented at the end of last year at the fourth Fale sem Medo forum (Talk with No Fear), 88% of the respondents said there are still major inequalities between men and women in the Brazilian society.
Even though 85% of men agree that fathers should teach their children not to be misogynistic, 48% find it unpleasant or humiliating for a man to do household chores while his wife works outside, and a mere 35% think men have the responsibility to help women.
After hearing 1,800 people across 70 cities, the study revealed that, despite the criticism, actions show tolerance towards sexist behavior, since 61% of respondents, men and women included, consider that women who allowed themselves to be photographed are also to blame when a man shares intimate pictures without their permission on social media, and 27% believe that, in certain cases, women may be held accountable for being raped.
In the survey, entitled “The Role of Men in Deconstructing Misogyny,” 78% of respondents agree that women should know their rights and be encouraged to fight for them; 59% said they should all be respected regardless of their looks or behavior; 67% say that men and women should be equally in charge of home chores and parenting.
Misogyny is viewed as negative by 79% of people. Although 87% of interviewees agreed that at least a portion of the population is sexist, only 24% see themselves as such. The survey also shows that 24% of men do not have the courage to defend a woman in front of other men, and that 31% would not like to be sexist, but do not know what to do.
As for perceptions on feminism, 20% of men and 55% of women call themselves feminists, but 55% of people say feminism is the opposite of misogyny, and 32% think feminism is outdated.
Another 44% of the people heard state that calling men sexist does not motivate them to join the engagement against violence targeting women, and 54% of the interviewees said they had a private conversation before changing their minds.
“The mere fact that a fourth of the population admit they’re sexist shows there’s a lot of progress to be made before this topic is really perceived as something wrong,” said Locomotiva Institute head Renato Meirelles.
In his view, people’s knowledge about the issue is still very superficial. “Six out of every ten men – that is, 46 million of adult Brazilian men – believe they could deal with women’s issues in a different, better way,” Meirelles argued.
Mafoani Odara Poli Santos, who coordinates projects on fighting violence against women at the Avon Institute, believes that the survey can lead to major insights and important changes.
“But there’s still a lot of tolerance towards violence against women, with men claiming women are to blame for being raped. These data bring together perception and practice. In the most essential things in the education process, people are unable to change.”
Journalist Jacira Melo, founder and executive director of the Patrícia Galvão Institute, argues that this is the right time to debate the subject with men.
She mentioned the state of affairs 36 years ago, when violence against women was not recognized as a serious social problem, and women would protest all across the country, writing on walls the words “Quem ama não mata,” (If you love, don’t kill).
“We’ve had a process in which women staged a veritable insurrection in the country, saying ‘enough of violence,’ violence being a social problem, not a problem behind closed doors,” she said, adding that, “behind a woman suffering from violence, there’s a man who needs to change.”
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