Domestic violence against women in Brazil
In Brazil , domestic violence – also commonly referred to as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, and intimate partner violence (IPV) – is widespread and constitutes one of the more prevalent forms of violence against women.
Since the 1970s, there has been a growing awareness in the country of the need to introduce legislative and other measures to prevent and address violence against women . Yet, domestic violence was not a part of the Brazil’s federal criminal code until 2006, when Law no. 11.340 of 7 August 2006, otherwise known as the Maria da Penha law , was adopted.Law no. 11.340 of 7 August 2006 (enacted by Congress and signed into law by former President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on 7 August 2006 and entered in force on 22 September 2006): http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_ato2004-2006/2006/lei/l11340.htm (accessed 9 July 2012). Despite increased efforts made recently, not only on the legislative level, but also on the social and institutional levels, incidents of domestic violence are still high and underreported to the authorities, due to fear of retribution, further violence, and social stigma.Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 – Brazil, US State of Department: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper (accessed 10 July 2012).
Table of Contents
- 1 Definition of domestic violence
- 2 Incidence of domestic violence
- 3 Applicable Law
- 4 References
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
Definition of domestic violence
Article 5 of the Maria da Penha law defines domestic and family violence against women as any action or omission based on gender that causes a woman’s death, injury, physical, sexual or psychological suffering and moral or patrimonial damage whether in the domestic-unit (understood as the permanent space shared by people, with or without family ties, including people sporadically aggregated), within a family (understood as the community formed by individuals that are or consider themselves related, joined by natural ties, by affinity or by express will), or in any intimate relationship of affection, in which the aggressor lives or has lived with the abused woman, regardless of cohabitation.
Article 6 affirms that the domestic violence against women constitutes a form of violation of human rights.
Article 7 of the Maria da Penha law provides a non-exhaustive list of some forms of domestic and family violence, including physical, psychological, sexual, patrimonial and moral violence, and their respective definitions.
Incidence of domestic violence
Survey on Family and Domestic Violence Against Women 2011
Since 2005, the DataSenado, a Brazilian government agency responsible for the collection and interpretation of national data, conducts a yearly survey on family and domestic violence against women. Its survey of February 2011DataSenado, 2011, Senado Federal, Secretaria Especial de Comunicação Social Secretaria de Pesquisa e Opinião, Violência Doméstica e Familiar Contra a Mulher, Pesquisa de opinião pública nacional: http://www.agenciapatriciagalvao.org.br/images/stories/PDF/violencia/datasenadopesqvcm2011.pdf (accessed 10 July 2012). is based on 1352 interviews with women, in 119 municipalities, including all the capitals and the Federal District.
The survey showed that knowledge about the Maria da Penha Law has grown over the past two years: 98% said they had heard of the law, against 83% in 2009. Fear remains the main reason (68%) for not reporting the attackers. For 64% of the women interviewed, the fact that the victim can no longer withdraw the complaint at the police station also acts as a reason for failing to report the offender. Research shows that 57% of respondents reported knowing women who have suffered some type of domestic violence.
The type of violence that stands out most is physical violence, cited by 78%; moral violence comes in second with 28%, and is virtually tied up with psychological violence, cited by 27%. In 66% of cases, those responsible for the attacks were husbands or partners. The majority of battered women, 67%, reported that they no longer live with the abuser. Nevertheless a significant proportion, 32%, still does, and, amongst these, 18% of the women concerned continue to suffer attacks. Among those who said they still live with the aggressor and still are victims of domestic violence, 40% reported being assaulted rarely, but 20% said they suffer attacks on a daily basis.
Perceptions Survey on Domestic Violence against Women in Brazil 2011
In a survey carried out by Ipsos Public Affairs and Avon Institute in Brazil,Avon Institute/Ipsos, Perceptions of Domestic Violence against Women in Brazil 2011: http://www.ipsos.com/public-affairs/sites/www.ipsos.com.public-affairs/files/documents/Domestic%20Violence%20in%20Brazil.pdf (accessed 10 July 2012). 1,800 citizens were interviewed (women and men aged 16+) in 70 cities across all 5 regions in the country between January 31 to February 10, 2011.
The survey found that 6 of every 10 Brazilians know a woman who was a victim of domestic violence. Of this total, 63% took some action to help the victim (72% women and 51% of men), and 44% talked with her. Machismo (46%) and alcoholism (31%) are cited as the main factors that contribute to violence. 59% of women and 48% of men do not trust the police and legal protection in domestic violence cases. Among the main reasons why women remain in a violent relationships, 27% responded “the lack of economic conditions to support themselves”, 20% responded “the lack of conditions for raising children”, and 15%, “fear of being killed”. 27% of women said they had been victims of domestic violence. Of those who reported having been assaulted, 15% said they had been forced to be sexually intimate with their partners. Only 15% of men surveyed admitted assaulting a woman. Of these, 38% said they were jealous, 33%, problems with drinking, while 12% admitted they assaulted for no reason. There was a relatively high recognition of psychological violence (62%), including verbal violence, humiliation, disrespect, jealousy and threats. 94% know the Maria da Penha Law, but only 13% know the content. Most people (60%) think that, when reported, the offender goes to jail.
Map of Violence 2012
The government-sponsored study, Map of Violence of 2012 (Mapa da Violência de 2012)Waiselfisz, Julio Jacobo. Mapa da Violência 2012. Os novos padrões da violência homicida no Brasil. São Paulo, Instituto Sangari, 2011: http://www.mapadaviolencia.org.br/pdf2012/mapa2012_web.pdf (accessed 10 July 2012). and its additional notes on female homicides in Brazil,Waiselfisz, Julio Jacobo. Mapa da Violência 2012. Caderno Complementar 1: Homicídio de mulheres no Brasil. São Paulo, Instituto Sangari, 2011: http://www.mapadaviolencia.org.br/pdf2012/mapa2012_mulher.pdf (accessed 10 July 2012). finds that, between 1980 and 2010, 91,930 women were murdered in Brazil; 43,486 of these homicides occurred solely in the past decade. From 1996 to 2010, the average number of murders of women remained stable at around 4.5 homicides for every 100,000 women.
In relation to statistics on murders of women, Brazil ranked seventh in a ranking of 84 countries, behind El Salvador , Guatemala , the Russian Federation and Colombia . Within Brazil, the states with the highest rates of violence against women are Espírito Santo, Alagoas and Paraná, respectively, with rates of 9.4 (more than double the national average), 8.3 and 6.3 homicides for every 100,000 women. Amongst the capital cities, the highest rates are in the Northern Region: Porto Velho, Manaus and Rio Branco. Of all the female murders, 40% of these incidents occurred inside the family home or residence. By comparison, the portion of male murders occurring inside the family residence stood at 14.7%.
The legal authority to punish domestic violence against women in Brazil is enshrined in the Maria da Penha law of 2006. Whilst relatively new, the legal provisions therein have been shaped by events and changes in the previous three decades, and most importantly by the ratification of international conventions and the case of Maria da Penha.
In the 1970s, Brazil’s women’s movement succeeded in placing violence against women onto the national policy agenda after a long history of female-partner homicides, justified as “honor crimes”, that had been left unpunished.J. Roure, “Domestic Violence in Brazil: Examining Obstacles and Approaches to Promote Legislative Reform”, Columbia Human Rights Law Review 41/69 (2009): pp. 67-158. This initiated a process of legal, judicial and institutional change, which would eventually lead to the criminalization of domestic violence in 2006.
In 1984, Brazil ratified the CEDAW (CEDAW),United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2010): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. – CEDAW: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 10 July 2012). following which, in 1988, legal provisions guaranteeing formal gender equality were included in the Brazilian Constitution.Article 5 of the Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil. In 1995, Brazil ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Bélem do Pará, 1994),Organization of American States, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belem do Para”), 9 June 1994: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae6b38b1c.html (accessed 9 July 2012). which permits the presentation of individual and/or collective petitions concerning violations of Article 7 of the Convention to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and, subsequently, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In 2002, Brazil ratified the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW,Optional Protocol: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8-b&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 1 December 2011). and thereby recognised the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the body that monitors States parties’ compliance with the Convention, to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups within its jurisdiction.
Whilst all these conventions paved the way for better regulation, the turning point in Brazil’s domestic legislation came in the aftermath of the 2001 landmark ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos) (CIDH) of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in the case of Brazilian national, Maria da Penha, whose husband’s attacks in 1983 had left her paralysed.Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes v. Brazil, Case 12.051, Inter-Am. C.H.R., Report No. 54/01,OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111 doc. 20 rev (2000): http://www.cidh.oas.org/annualrep/2000eng/ChapterIII/Merits/Brazil12.051.htm (accessed 9 July 2012).
In spite of two sentences by the Tribunal of Juries of Ceará (1991 and 1996), until 1998, 15 years after the crime against Maria da Penha, there had still been no definitive decision in the process and the aggressor remained at large. The CIDH criticised the Brazilian government for not taking effective measures to prosecute and convict perpetrators of domestic violence and found the State of Brazil responsible for failure to act and negligence with regard to domestic and family violence against Brazilian women. This was the first time that the Belem do Pará Convention had been applied in the Inter-American system, and that a ruling of the CIDH had found a country responsible regarding matters of domestic violence against women.Comité de América Latina y el Caribe por la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM), “María da Penha Case, Brazil (domestic violence against women)”, 25 January 2010: http://www.cladem.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=630&Itemid=515 (accessed on 9 July 2012).
In 2003, the case was also reported to the CEDAW Committee, which recommended that Brazil adopts “without delay legislation on domestic violence” and “practical measures to follow-up and monitor the application of such a law and evaluate its effectiveness”.CEDAW/2003/II/CRP.3/Add.2/Ver.1, 18 July 2003.
Between 2002 and 2004, the Non-Governmental Organisations Advocacy, Agende, Themis, CLADEM (Comité de América Latina y el Caribe por la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer), Cepia and CFEMEA (Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assessoria), gathered in the form of consortium to draft a law to combat domestic violence and violence against women. On August 7, 2006, following several discussions and consultations between civil society and the State, Law no. 11.34, referred to as the Maria da Penha Law, was approved.Secreatria de Enfrentamento à Violência contra as Mulheres, Lei Maria da Penha, Breve Histórico: http://www.sepm.gov.br/subsecretaria-de-enfrentamento-a-violencia-contra-as-mulheres/lei-maria-da-penha/breve-historico (accessed on 9 July 2012).
Elements of the Maria da Penha law
The Maria da Penha law was drawn with the intention to finally meet the commitments made by Brazil with the ratification of CEDAW and other international conventions (Article 1).
For the first time in Brazil, domestic violence against women is codified and specifically defined (see above: Definition) (Articles 5 and 7). The Maria da Penha Law also defines the commitments of the government to develop public policies and guidelines aimed at ensuring the human rights of women within the household and family relations through a coordinated set of actions by the Federal State, the Federal District, the municipalities and non-governmental entities, through, amongst others, the implementation and strengthening of multidisciplinary networks, including legal aid for victims, specialised police assistance, psychological support, law enforcement, social services, Category:Health, education, work, and housing.
In addition, the law allows for the creation of a special, ordinary courts for domestic and family violence against women with civil and criminal competence in all Brazilian states (Article 14). It amends the criminal code and triples previous punishments for those convicted of such crimes and also allows the possibility of preventive imprisonment.
- Maria da Penha Law: A Name that Changed Society (UN Women website 30.08.2011)