Brazil is not one country. Many well-educated women in the cities live in relative equality, while women in other parts of the country are controlled by written and unwritten rules which limit their freedom of movement.
Brazil is an extremely violent country, and although the violence mainly affects young men, many women are killed and injured. According to official figures, 34,648 people were shot and killed in 2006.
Population: 193.7 million (2009)
Religions: Christianity 90% (Roman Catholic approx. 70%, Protestant 20%), others 10 %
Life expectancy: men 68 years, women 76 years (2011)
Literacy rate: 90% (2010)
Income inequality: Gini coefficient 0.539 (2009) *
Ranking on the Transparency International list of Corruption Perceptions in 183 countries: 73 (2011) **
Ranking in the UNDP Human Development Index of 146 countries, taking gender equality into account: 80 (2011) ***
Maternal deaths: 58 deaths per l00,000 births
Number of children/woman: 2.18
Abortion legislation: Abortion is not legal. It is only allowed if the woman’s life is at risk or if she has been the victim of rape or incest.
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: 41,532 women were murdered in the years 1997-2007. That implies 10 women every day. The majority were murdered by men they knew. In the first six months of 2010 over 40,000 incidents of violence against women were reported.
* Gini coefficient:
An economic metric of inequality in a population, for example in income distribution. The Gini coefficient has a value of between 0 and 1, where 0 implies that the assets of all individuals are exactly the same (total equality) while 1 represents total inequality. The lower the Gini coefficient for income inequality, the greater the equality of distribution of salaries, profits, welfare benefits and other forms of compensation.
In 2011, Transparency International ranked 183 countries according to how widespread corruption was in the country. Position 1 on the list showed the country where corruption was least widespread, position 183 the greatest. Corruption within, for example, the police and justice systems has a marked influence on women’s lives.
Every year, the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, measures human development in the world’s countries taking into account health, education and income, in the Human Development Index, HDI. In 2010 a new index was introduced: GII, Gender Inequality Index, which also takes gender equality into account. The countries are ranked from position 1 downwards.
Swedish Institute of International Affairs
Center for Reproductive Rights
CIA World Factbook
Gini Coefficient World CIA Report 2009
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
Map of violence 2010 compiled by Sangari Institute for the Brazilian government
Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ reports on human rights
Is there legislation in place which explicitly states that acts of violence committed against women by someone close to them which take place in private are against the law, and which imposes appropriate punishment on the perpetrator?
New legislation has been in place since 2006, named after a victim of violence - Maria Da Penha (länk) – which clearly defines various forms of violence and imposes appropriate sentences.
There is a special Ministry for Women to handle, among other things, questions of violence.
Is there a functioning, non-corrupt police force and judiciary which can pass sentence and enforce punishment within a reasonable period of time?
The justice system is frighteningly slow and ineffective. It can take tens of years before sentence is passed.
In rural areas, corruption among the police, traditional values and non-existent courts cause serious problems.
The police have a bad reputation, and many victims of violence do not make a police report because they do not expect to receive help.
In the lawless settlements (favelas) in the big cities, the legal system is completely ineffective. The police do not dare to go in, and the drugs cartels have total control. In the unlikely event of anything happening, it can mean a death sentence for someone who has abused a woman or anyone else who has fallen out of favour with the drug barons.
There are certain areas in the big cities where the police and the courts are beginning to be more effective. They have started to deal with the corruption and are attempting to speed up the legal proceedings.
The women’s police stations (länk) in the big cities are highly regarded.
In some big cities there are specialised women’s courts whose job is to speed up the handling of crimes of violence which affect women.
Are there accessible and reliable statistics for the incidence of violence against women?
The figures which are available come from individual and international organisations, not from official Brazilian sources.
Is it possible for women to support themselves and their children, for example after divorce?
Yes. It is generally acceptable for women to be in paid employment but there are big differences in salary levels.
Brazil’s improving economy is also benefiting women. The government’s efforts to fight poverty have given many people, including single women, a better quality of life.
The official figures show that women earn considerably less than men.
Unemployment affects more women than men, and the informal sector, where many women work, is an uncertain labour market.
Many women have been forced into being the sole breadwinner because their husbands have been killed, injured or imprisoned as a result of crime. They sometimes think that their only chance lies in going to work for the drugs cartels, acting as a courier or storing supplies.
Are there shelters for women who want to leave a violent relationship?
There are women’s shelters which offer protection in the cities.
There are no women’s shelters in the rural areas, and for the majority of abused women it is difficult to leave their abuser, for both economic and traditional reasons. In many communities, women are seen as subordinate beings, whose duty is to obey – if she does not, her husband has the right to use violence.
Has the government explicitly expressed the will to fight the violence by means of public debate and various forms of preventive work, for example in the schools, the legal system and the healthcare system?
The government has been successful in making people aware of the new legislation and the women’s police stations.
Are there any programmes to prevent the abuser from relapsing into violence?
We have not been able to find any positive examples. On the contrary, the prisons have a very bad reputation, and are seen as a place where criminals are recruited rather than rehabilitated. If women do not believe that their abusers will be rehabilitated they may be discouraged from reporting them.
Does society take the view that women are subordinate to men?
Women and men in Brazil do not enjoy the same freedom of movement. Women are expected to stay at home and look after the home and the children.
According to the WHO, 55 per cent of all women over the age of 15 have been subjected to physical or sexual violence, the majority of them by their partner.
The growing number of women in leading positions, including the President and the head of the civilian police force in Rio de Janeiro, is having an impact on the view of the roles of women and men.
Which direction is the fight to end the violence against women going in?
Information on the new legislation is intensive, more women’s police stations are being opened, police officers are being trained and more women are reporting the violence.