The Brazilian law on the protection of women—known as the Maria da Penha Law—is turning 11 years old. To celebrate the date, the Maria da Penha Institute launched a campaign dubbed “Clocks of Violence,” designed to draw attention to the figures linked to violence against women. By counting the number of women who fall victims to violence throughout Brazil minute by minute, the initiative aims to encourage people not to be silent, and report cases involving physical psychological, sexual, and moral violence, and even vandalism.
“It's been a path filled with major achievements, including the equipping of assistance facilities and the understanding that services must be multidisciplinary and engage authorities from different levels. In this connection, we believe it's been a positive experience,” said Ceará-born pharmacist Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes, who became paraplegic after an attack by her former husband. Her case inspired the drafting of the law named after her.
Simone Henrique, a master in law from the University of São Paulo (USP) and a specialist in black women, described the law as “a civilizing landmark,” but argued that the piece of legislation still fails to address a major issue: sexism, which she believes keeps assaults naturalized. “Oppression is all-encompassing and deeply ingrained in our society. It upsets me to see that the law brings about change in habits, but not in culture,” she declared. To break the cycle of violence, both financial and emotional independence of women are mentioned by experts as the main solutions to the problem.
In addition to physical violence, easily recognized by society, psychological attacks are also an issue to be addressed, experts say. In the view of Isadora Vier, a criminal lawyer who specializes in gender, despite the number advances, the law still gives very little leeway when it comes to the interpretation of psychological violence, “which is often hard to be perceived even by women themselves,” she argued.
A project on gender education is under development at the State University of Maringá aiming to spread knowledge about violence against women through workshops where men are welcome to participate. “It is without a doubt the most powerful strategy of all, because, in addition to educating people, it decreases the number of cases. It's an effort that requires the work of people from all walks of life,” Vier said.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira