The truth lies, as usual, somewhere in between.
“Partner violence in Santa Marta has not disappeared, but it is no longer hidden away.”
Who: Itamar Silva
What:Runs a project to raise equality awareness in the Grupo Eco youth group in the Santa Marta favela.
While the houses have been modernised and weapons removed, attitudes towards men and women have changed only slightly.
“Many of the girls here become pregnant as young as 13 – 14,” says Itamar Silva. The children’s fathers aren’t much older, maybe 15, but attitudes towards the young parents is frighteningly unequal. A teenage mother carries the full responsibility, is forced to leave school, loses status and may even be thrown out of her home, while the boy’s status rises. A teenage father has become a man, even if he doesn’t take any responsibility for his child.”
Itamar Silva leads discussion groups for young men and women in Santa Marta. One of the most important topics is gender equality: What is my role in society? What can I do? How do I see my own area of responsibility? What demands come with being a mother, or a father? What is violence? It is easy to get a discussion going. Everyone has their own examples.
Partner violence in Santa Marta has not disappeared, but it is no longer hidden away.
“In the past, you heard about women being beaten up in their own home, but they never said anything, and they stayed indoors until their injuries had healed,” says Itamar Silva. “Now women won’t tolerate the violence. They scream and run out onto the street, tell the neighbours, throw the man out or move away. Everything has come out into the open.”
Itamar Silva is very positive towards the women’s police stations, and believes that the mere existence of special police officers to deal with crimes of violence against women has helped to bring it out into the open and to change attitudes towards women in society as a whole.
The male police officers just used to laugh at the women who dared to report violence.
“The male police officers just used to laugh at the women who dared to report violence.” Itamar Silva does not have much trust in the police in Rio de Janeiro, but he is full of admiration for the new civilian police commissioner, Marta Rocha.
“She is not corrupt, and she thinks politically rather than technically. It will take time to get away from the culture of corruption but I think we’re getting there.”
Itamar Silva rarely hears about acts of rape in Santa Marta.
“The young male drug addicts don’t need to rape. They’re popular because they offer status and protection. But someone who is being protected is also being controlled. You don’t set yourself up against the person who has the power.”
Is it right that boys have much greater freedom to move around than girls?
The drug barons are not the only men who have assumed the right to control women’s lives. Women do not have the same right to go out in the evening, visit bars or dance the samba.
“We talk about this in the youth groups. Is it right that boys have much greater freedom to move around than girls? I think the attitude in my country is changing. This is true of everyone from judges and the police, who are trying to break the tradition of corruption, to my teenage boys who are beginning to talk about inequality.”
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.