An Insufficient Law and the Loss of an Integral Perspective

The voices of the “Women’s Spring” in Brazil are rising, but government policies thwart any progress made towards the eradication of violence against women.

In July 2013, the Brazilian National Congress created a Mixed Parliamentary Research Commission (CPMI in its Portuguese acronym) whose objective was to “Investigate violence against women in Brazil and denounce the failure of authorities to implement the legal tools established in the Law for the protection of women in a situation of violence”. The report was drawn up on the basis of public hearings designed to gauge the results of the implementation of the Law Maria de Penha (LMP in its Portuguese acronym) in states. This report brought to light a series of problems to resolve. Among the recommendations and suggestions was the modification of the Criminal Code to include the insertion of femicide as an aggravating type of homicide. As a result, in 2015 the Law 13.104, known as the Femicide Law, was passed, making homicides for motives of gender a crime. 

The LMP had a significant impact in the struggle to eradicate violence against women and offer protection for its victims at a time when femicide rates were rising in the country: in 1980 femicide rates were 2.3 out of 100,000, rising to 4.8 per 100,000 in 2013, an increase of 111.1%. That year there were a total of 4,762 homicides of women. There was a slight reduction in 2014 with 4,621 killings (4.5 per 100,000), followed by another drop to 4.38 per 100,000 in 2015. However, in the period 2005 to 2015 there was a 22% increase in the number of homicides of black women compared to a reduction of 7.4% in the mortality rate of non-black women. This data shows increased vulnerabilities as well as the impact of the racial question in violent deaths.

The “Atlas of Violence” is the portal which contains data from the Ministry of Health (MS in its Portuguese acronym) and the police, managed by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), and the Brazilian Public Security Forum, which is currently the reference in the country for deaths caused by gender-based violence. It provides data on the incidence of domestic, sexual and other violence, which began to be registered in the Notification of Injury Information System (SINAN)/MS after the passing of the Law 10.778 for the notification of cases of violence against women. The main problems identified are: on the one hand, not all cases of violence are reported and, on the other, among those reported, some are not registered in the system. The mortality records are available at the Mortality Information System (SIM/MS). This data deals only with the victims, with no reference to the perpetrator or aggressor.

The qualitative and quantitative improvement of information continues to be one of the greatest challenges. Currently, there is a lack of official information about the deaths, and there are problems with the statistics and deficiencies in the data provided by the police and the justice system, which do not always include the gender and colour/race of the victim. Furthermore, there is no exhaustive follow-up of the judicial processes to review how cases were resolved.

Quality and monitoring studies reveal that the lack of resolution of police investigations and the number of cases per judge are factors that negatively affect continuity in judicial processes. Faced with this lack of data, one of the recommendations of the CPMI was for the creation of a National Information System for Violence against Women.

Regarding social policy, in July 2016 there were 1,662 specialized care services for women in situations of violence, which includes 238 Women’s Care Centres, 502 specialized delegations or police centres, 103 specialized courts, 45 care centres at the office of the Public Defender, 95 special promotions, 3 women’s shelters, and 596 specialized health services.

The National Policy Office for Women, a ministry created by the Lula government, put a substantial effort into the creation of a national strategy to confront violence against women. During Dilma Rousseff’s second term and under the present administration, this institution found itself weakened and lacking a comprehensive approach to confronting the problem, instead relegating it to a mere police matter.

State and municipal policies also suffered from this, though there already were problems with constituting themselves as a national “network”. On the other hand, the proposals to develop education policies that include a debate about gender equality and prevention of domestic violence were met with strong opposition from the resurgent religious and/or conservative legal groups, who presented draft laws to limit the debate in schools.

Simultaneously, there was a growing outrage among women and feminist movements and more demonstrations against violence took place. From 2013, with the marcha de las vadias or “slutwalk” [1], the 2015 black women’s march, the rural workers’ march, and a series of actions which became known as the Women’s Spring, until 2017, with the March mobilizations joining the transnational Not One Less movement to put an end to the gender violence, both social media and the streets have been taken over by militant young people, adding the power of their voices and their presence to the movements. The 25th of November will be another significant date to continue the struggle against this scourge. 


[1] Also known as “Marcha de las Putas” (Slutwalk) in Spanish-speaking countries.