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Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes is a biopharmaceutical professional from the state of Ceará. In 1983, her husband made two attempts to murder her. As a result, she became paraplegic and began a relentless struggle to see that her aggressor was punished. Her case took 19 years to go to trial. In the end, her husband served only two years in prison and was released. Maria da Penha is an activist in the fight to end violence against women. That struggle won powerful support from the Lula administration, when the Maria da Penha Law was enacted in 2006.
Among other advances, the Maria da Penha Law allows women offenders in domestic or family environment are caught in the act or having In addition to providing for the apprehension and preventive imprisonment of attackers, the legislation increases the maximum period of detention from one to three years, provides for a variety of measures ranging from removing offenders from the home to the issuance of restraining orders against abusers, and establishes special courts dedicated to handling cases of Domestic and Family Violence Against Women.
With the Maria da Penha Law, domestic violence is no longer treated as a trivial matter, which can be remedied through the offering of a food basket or payment of a fine. In addition to physical and sexual violence, the legislation also addresses psychological violence, financial abuse, and bullying.
A law alone cannot end domestic violence, which remains a serious problem in Brazil. Therefore, the Women’s Policy Office understands the ongoing need to improve policies, programs and awareness campaigns that encourage the reporting of incidents of violence against women; empower women; and establish gender equality.
According to Brazil’s Applied Economic Research Institute (IPEA), it is estimated that between 2001 and 2011 almost 50,000 women were killed as a result of gender conflicts, usually by a partner or former partner.
To address this situation, in late 2013, the federal government launched the Women: Living Without Violence program. The initiative, which has received R$ 265 million in funding as of the close of 2014, integrates several strategies, such as the toll-free, nationwide hotline (Dial 180); coordination of services focused on the collection of evidence related to sexual crimes; the Service Center for Women Living in Brazil’s Border Regions; ongoing awareness campaigns; mobile units for women living in at-risk situations in rural areas, forest regions, and riverside communities; and opening of the Brazilian Women’s House, a federal initiative that umbrellas several public services for women.
In a partnership between the federal government, and the nation’s states and municipalities, the Brazilian Women’s House is establishing specialized police stations and courts, as well as providing public defenders, prosecutors and psychosocial personnel (psychologists, social workers, sociologists, and educators who will assist women in identifying their life prospects and provide ongoing monitoring) and counselors who can offer guidance on employment and income issues. ).
The overriding aim of the Brazilian Women’s House is to welcome, support and free women who are caught up in the vicious cycle of domestic violence. Land for the construction of these Houses – in all of Brazil’s 26 states and its federal district – has already been acquired by the Women’s Policy Office and the tendering process for the construction of physical structures was completed by the end of 2014.
In the eight years since it was introduced, the toll-free, Dial 180 hotline received 3.6 million calls. In 2013 alone, there were 532,711 calls, which resulted in 106,860 referrals to the service network. A positive development is the fact that, between 2012 and 2013, the number of women who chose to report a first incident of violence rose 20%.
Statistics reveal that the perpetrators of these attacks are, in 81% of reported cases, people who have or have had emotional ties to the victims. In 62% of cases, violence is committed by partners, spouses, or boyfriends of the victims. The reports from 19% of victims implicated the perpetrators of the attacks they suffered as having been former partners, ex-husbands, and ex-boyfriends.
Fonte: Central de Atendimento à Mulher – Ligue 180/SPM
In March 2014, the Women’s Policy Office transformed Dial 180 into a hotline. In its new incarnation, complaints received are forwarded to Public Security agencies and the public prosecutors of each state and the federal district, which speeds up the resolution cases.
In its new formation, Dial 180 complaints trigger immediate action from military police across the country, in the same manner that it has already occurred in situations involving the trafficking of women and forced confinement. In cases classified as urgent, direct referrals are made to Mobile Emergency Service Units (SAMUs).
An application that explains and details the specifics of the Maria da Penha Law also includes a collaborative tool that collects information from its users, which allows for the development of site mapping that can reveal areas in each city where women are more at risk.
Victims and witnesses of violence against women can now report it via the Click 180 mobile app. Launched in May 2014, the app was developed by UN Women, in partnership with Brazil’s Women’s Policy Office and support from the British Embassy.
In addition to direct access to the Women’s Assistance Hotline (Dial 180), the app offers detailed information about the Maria da Penha Law, with explanations of each type of violence to which women might be exposed and suggests the nearest locations where women can seek assistance.
One of the main problems that rural women face is their difficulty in accessing public services. Accordingly, Brazil’s Women’s Policy Office has provided each specialized unit throughout the nation with fully-equipped, complete with multidisciplinary teams trained to listen to the complaints of women and offer them emergency and primary care services.
The 54 mobile units (two for each state and the federal district) offer their services to the most remote areas of urban centers, including prevention, assistance, research, investigation, and access to the legal system. They can also host presentations and offer clarifications about the Maria da Penha Law. As part of the Women: Living Without Violence program, during the first six months of this initiative, these units made approximately 1,000 service visits.