What is violence against women

Violence against women, according to the Convention of Belém do Pará, is “any and all conduct, based on gender, that causes death, harm, or physical, sexual or psychological suffering to women, both in the public and private spheres”.

Gender-based violence is a worldwide problem. According to UN data, 7 out of 10 women in the world have been or will be victims of violence. This violence has a cultural origin, it is the result of a patriarchal and sexist society, where men and women occupy different positions of power.

Most of the violence against women happens at home , by family members or people close to the family and by partners or ex-partners. Most of the victims of this violence are children and adolescents .

Gender inequality and discrimination naturalized violence against women. Societies, for a long time, did not recognize it as a violation of human rights and, in many countries, the law itself allowed (and still allows) submission and violence against women.

Types of violence against women

According to the Maria da Penha Law (Law 11.340 / 06), there are five types of domestic and family violence against women:

  • Physical:conduct that violates the woman’s bodily health or physical integrity. Examples are: beating, suffocation, injuries with sharp or piercing objects, torture, gunshot wounds and burns.
  • Psychological:conduct that causes emotional damage and self-esteem and disturbs the woman’s development or exercises control over her actions and decisions. Examples are: embarrassment, threat, humiliation, persecution, isolation and exploitation.
  • Sexual:any action that compels women to have unwanted sexual intercourse. They are: rape, preventing contraceptive methods, forcing abortion or limiting any woman’s reproductive rights.
  • Patrimonial:any act of destruction, retention or subtraction of personal objects, goods and economic resources. Examples are: control of money, destruction of documents, non-payment of alimony, theft, extortion and fraud.
  • Moral:actions that constitute slander, defamation or injury. Examples are: lying criticisms, demeaning women by cursing, exposure of their intimate lives, devaluation of women by their way of dressing.

Learn more about the Maria da Penha Law .

Violence against women in Brazil

In Brazil, violence against women is a historical problem , built on the basis of traditions that reinforce inequality and the submission of women to men.

In colonial times in Brazil, for example, legislation allowed husbands to murder their wives if they suspected treason. Then, with the proclamation of the Republic, the Civil Code determined that women were “incapable” and that they could only work outside the home or sign contracts with the husband’s authorization.

The institutionalization of violence against women contributed to the naturalization of the idea of ​​submission and hierarchy between genders and prevented women from seeking help or denouncing their aggressors.

In recent decades, however, civil society has come to demand an end to violations and respect for women’s rights. The feminist movement played a fundamental role in this struggle, both in direct action with the public authorities and in raising awareness in society.

Although Brazil is still one of the countries that kills the most women in the world, these mobilizations have allowed important advances in the fight to end violence against women in Brazil.

Learn more about feminism .

An important landmark of this struggle was the Convention of Belém do Pará , also known as the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence against Women, promulgated in 1994 and adopted by Brazil in 1995.

This convention is important because it establishes the right of women to live free from violence and classifies violence against women as a violation of human rights. It is the responsibility of the signatory States to eradicate this type of violence.

Failure to do so was what led the Organization of American States (OAS) to condemn Brazil for extreme tolerance in the case of Maria da Penha , who for years denounced her husband for the violence suffered.

This case gave the name to the most important law against domestic and family violence in Brazil, the Mari ada Penha Law (Law 11.340 / 06). This law provides for more severe punishments for domestic and family aggressions.

Alternative penalties, such as the payment of basic food baskets, were used as punishment for the aggressors. Under this law, aggressors can have preventive custody decreed or be caught in the act. In addition, the length of detention was long and measures were taken to prevent the aggressor from approaching the victim.

Learn more about protective measures and femicide .

The Maria da Penha case

Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes experienced several situations of violence practiced by her husband Marco Antonio Heredia Viveros, who in 1983, after 7 years of marriage, shot her in the back and left her paraplegic.

Upon returning home after surgery and treatment, Maria da Penha was kept in private prison for 15 days and suffered another assassination attempt, this time her husband tried to electrocute her while taking a bath.

Maria da Penha denounced her attacker, but he was not tried until eight years after the crime, in 1991. His sentence was 15 years, but he was released from the forum due to the resources requested by the defense.

The next trial took place in 1996, on that occasion her ex-husband was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence was not served. In 2002, when the crime was only a few months away, he was sentenced to just two years. Heredia served his sentence and in 2004 he was already free.

In 1998, the case was reported to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR / OAS). The Brazilian State did not comment once during the process and was condemned for omission, negligence and tolerance in relation to violence against women .

See also the meaning of domestic violence .

Data on violence against women in Brazil

  • Every 2 minutes, two women are beaten.
  • Every hour, 503 women are victims of aggression.
  • Every 2 hours, 1 woman is murdered.
  • The house 11 minutes, 1 woman is raped.

The data on violence against women is estimated to be higher than the statistics indicate. This is because, many women fail to report their aggressors, out of fear, material and emotional dependence or shame.

It is important to note that, when opening data on violence against women, there is an even more serious picture for black women . These differences are the result of the historical processes of slavery that structured Brazilian society and of racism, which is still determinant in social relations.

Learn more about racial inequality .

Preventing violence against women

The origins of violence against women in Brazil and in the world are the result of long historical processes and are therefore difficult to overcome. Laws can prevent, protect and punish aggressors, but to end violence, gender inequalities and discrimination must be deconstructed.

Such cultural changes require great efforts, especially in education, on the part of the State and the whole of society. Public policies must guarantee equal opportunity, respect for women’s rights and mechanisms to deal with violence.

A woman will make a complaint only if there is a structure that offers security and that justice, in fact, judges and punishes the aggressors, otherwise the violence is silenced.


by Abdullah Sam
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