Domestic violence and new urgent protective measures in Brazil

[AMICUS CURIAE] Every two hours a woman is murdered in Brazil. Due to the recent relaxation of gun laws in Brazil, it would not be surprising if femicides become even more frequent. In a country filled with violence against women, women seem to be more and more unsafe each day, especially from 2009 to 2017, when 737 thousand cases of domestic violence were reported. What is more, the reports do not completely reflect the reality since in many cases there is no formal record of the violence.

The law that addresses gender-based violence against women in Brazil is called Maria da Penha law and was passed in 2006. This law was named after this woman called Maria da Penha, who was domestically abused by her husband. After two attempts to murder her, he left her paraplegic. The law was a great and necessary measure to help protect women against domestic violence, however its proper implementation is still problematic. Recently, amendments to this law were sanctioned to create urgent protective measures for women and their dependants in case of domestic violence.

The amendment states that when there is a risk to the life or physical integrity of the woman or of her dependants, a judge or a police deputy (in cities that are not county seats) or, in the absence of the last, even a police officer, can determine the immediate removal of the aggressor from the place of cohabitation with the victims. This measure is absolutely necessary to protect victims in life-threatening situations of domestic violence.

Before this amendment, only a judge could request the removal of the aggressor from their home. The issue was that, in thousands of Brazilian cities that are not county seats, there is no judge available. Thus, it would be too late when a judge could finally grant the protective measure. In addition, when a police deputy or police officer applies the protective measure, a judge must be informed of the situation within 24 hours, as opposed to 48 hours as the law previously stated.

All in all, the amendment was an improvement as it facilitated the introduction of urgent protective measures. Needless to say, the legislation is important but not sufficient to change the violent reality for women in Brazil. Education, public policies to prevent violence, adequate support to the victims and behavioral changes are also crucial to reduce gender-based violence.

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