SAO PAULO – Three women were murdered in Brazil each day last year, on average, the victims of gender violence and in 2017 a woman was raped every eight minutes.
These figures – 1,173 femicides perpetrated by men and 61,032 rapes – have served to mobilize a network of more than 29,000 women in the South American giant who, starting now, will join forces to present to the country’s institutions their own version of the rules and laws they need to have in place to be properly protected.
The Brazilian Women’s Group recently announced the project known as “The Stance,” a document edited by the members of the 50 nodes within the network that will be taken to Congress in Brasilia and presented to lawmakers.
Among the more than 29,000 woman is Maria da Penha, 74, a symbol for the fight against machista violence in Brazil after she survived two murder attempts by her husband and transformed her traumatic experience into a harsh law against mistreatment that bears her name.
“I feel happy because I see that we, this group of women, are working and thinking so that the law may be strengthened more and more,” said Da Penha in an interview with EFE.
The law designed to combat gender violence in Brazil, the so-called “Maria da Penha Law,” constituted a great leap forward for thousands of women in 2006 but, in practice, it does not have the proper framework to be able to be properly enforced.
According to Da Penha, one of the main problems is that the law establishes four entities to protect victims and potential victims, but they exist only on paper.
“It’s going to be 13 years since the law was created and things are still not found outside the capitals (of the Brazilian states),” Da Penha said.
She also pushed for the existence of at least a Women’s Reference Center in each town, no matter how small, to guarantee psychological and legal assistance for victims of gender violence and for these centers to be set up inside the basic health centers so that women can seek help there in private.
“A woman can be murdered in a small town if she is seen entering a police station to complain about her husband,” the activist said.
For Sao Paulo Superior Court Judge Tatiane Moreira, the 2017 case of a woman who reported a man who ejaculated on her neck during a bus trip in the country’s largest city highlighted a recurring situation and mobilized civil society.
That provided the impulse for a law that remained stalled in Congress for months which set forth the crime of “inappropriate sexual contact” and was finally approved in August 2018.
The Brazilian feminist movement fears that the struggles and achievements of women in this regard are now in danger because of the election of ultrarightist President Jair Bolsonaro, who has established himself as the representative of the most conservative sectors within Brazil’s Congress.
Although he has moderated his discourse since entering office on Jan. 1, Bolsonaro has a sordid history of misogynistic and machista statements during his tenure as a federal lawmaker.
This past June, the president was forced by the courts to publish on the social networks a public apology for saying to a female lawmaker in 2003 that she didn’t “deserve” to be raped “because she’s too ugly” during a parliamentary debate.
In the coming months, the Brazilian women’s group will be working to prepare a text critically analyzing current policy on gender equality.
The president of the group and one of Brazil’s most important female businesspeople, Luiza Helena Trajano, told EFE in an interview that the initiative seeks to have an impact on society, the press and the government.
“We want to position ourselves on what we’re sure is lacking to change this picture,” Trajano said.
Last Thursday, during a political event, the group made public its stance on assorted questions affecting women’s health and rights, including ending the 30 percent quota set for female candidates in elections.
The network has also taken a clear position against the decree flexibilizing the purchase and possession of weapons in Brazil, one of Bolsonaro’s most controversial proposals that, the group says, could increase the number of femicides by firearms.