Maria da Penha
During the year I spent in Brazil, one piece of legislation that I heard a lot about within feminist discussions was the Maria da Penha Law. Even though it was put into place in 2006, the law was such a major step forward for Brazilian women that people continue to speak of it as if it represented a particularly progressive concept: the idea that women have the right to physical and emotional safety from their partners.
I recently ran into a UN piece about the success of the law since its enactment. Firstly, it does a good job of describing exactly how the law came about:
“In May 1983, biopharmaceutist Maria da Penha Fernandes was fast asleep when her husband shot her, leaving her a paraplegic for life. Two weeks after her return from the hospital, he tried to electrocute her. The case da Penha filed languished in court for two decades, while Maria’s husband remained free. Years later, in a landmark ruling, the Court of Human Rights criticized the Brazilian government for not taking effective measures to prosecute and convict perpetrators of domestic violence. In response to this, the Brazilian government in 2006 enacted a law under the symbolic name “Maria da Penha Law on Domestic and Family Violence. The Maria da Penha Act establishes special courts and stricter sentences for offenders, but also other instruments for the prevention and relief in cities of more than 60,000 inhabitants, such as police stations and shelters for women.”
It goes on to detail how the law has been successful in causing “more than 331,000 prosecutions and 110,000 final judgments, and nearly two million calls to the Service Center for Women.” It has raised the severity of the crime of domestic violence, though the application of the law is still challenging. As in the States, getting women to report their abuse, or even recognize it as abuse is complex. But this is certainly a step forward.
These two videos were included with the article. My favorite is the first, which has various Brazilian men (some famous including dancer Carlinhos de Jesus) denouncing violence against women.