Brazil Passes Femicide Law to Curb Domestic Violence

Donna Bowater and Priscilla Moraes, “Brazil Passes Femicide Law to Curb Domestic Violence,” Aljazeera America (May 10, 2015). Link to Original Article

In March, 2015, a femicide law was passed in order to define and set tougher punishments for gender-based killing. Domestic abuse and violence is rampant in Brazil; every two hours, a woman is killed. In 2006 the Maria da Penha law was passed with the goal of reducing domestic violence, yet 700,000 women still live with aggression and assaults. The penalty for domestic abuse ranges from 12-30 years in prison, and this new femicide law can increase the sentence by up to one-third “if the victim is pregnant, is under 14, is older than 60 or has a disability or if the crime happens in front of the woman’s parents or children.” This law has been well-received, as it reinforces that domestic violence against women is a crime and that it will not be tolerated; however, the fact that Brazil had to pass another law criminalizing domestic violence brings into question if the government can be effective in dealing with these problems. After passing the Maria de Penha law, Projeto Violeta was started in downtown Rio De Janeiro. Projeto Violeta is partnership between the courts, public prosecutors and civil police in order to expedite cases of domestic abuse and speed up access to court orders. Under the Maria de Penha law, the police have 48 hours (four days) to act when a women reports an instance of domestic abuse. Many are concerned that 48 hours is too much time, leaving these women susceptible to more attacks from the abusers. Those involved with Projeto Violeta are trying to reduce the police’s reaction time to four hours. Eleonora Menicucci, the minister of policies for women, admits that fixing these problems is complicated: “We live in a patriarchal and chauvinistic culture, a culture that assumes women are the property of men.” Many feel that a law alone is not sufficient- education and awareness are necessary to bring change.

The authors of this article, Donna Bowater and Priscilla Moraes, report solely on current events in Brazil. Donna Bowater works as a journalist for several news outlets, reporting from Rio. Priscilla Moraes is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Delaware who has co-written several articles with Bowater for Aljazeera. This article is a good starting point for my dossier, informing the reader of the current situation and giving some history of the legal struggle against domestic abuse. The article includes testimonies of various women who have been saved by Projeto Violeta, and testimonies of the families of women who were killed as a result of the government and police’s inaction. The article gives reason to be optimistic about what this law means for a slow shift in public attitude concerning domestic violence, yet it acknowledges that there is still much work to be done to protect these women. To find more about this topic, one can search for the history and more details of the Maria de Penha law, Projeto Violeta, and other fights against chauvinism.

“On March 8 I will not shut up in the face of male chauvinism.” / “On March 8 I will not shut up in the face of violence against women.” On March 8th, International Women’s Day, Brazilian demonstrators call attention to the widespread violence against women and prevalence of macho attitudes throughout the country. Image found here.

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