CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Brazil is one of the countries affected the most by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to dealing with more than 19 million cases, 500,000 deaths and a weakened economy, Brazil has had a surge in domestic violence. The pandemic, especially quarantine procedures, forced survivors of domestic abuse to stay home with their abusers. This violence, which occurs most prominently with women and their respective partners or boyfriends, often leads to murder. Nevertheless, as the pandemic continues to worsen, the fight to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence in Brazil is a top priority.
Rates of Domestic Violence
The Instituto Maria de Penha reports that Brazilian women are subject to some form of verbal or physical attack every two seconds. From 2013 to 2014, there were approximately 18 cases of domestic violence for every 100,000 citizens. From 2015 to 2018, nearly 500,000 cases of domestic violence were reported by women in the city of Rio de Janeiro alone. In 2018, Brazil had the highest rate of femicide in Latin America, with approximately 1.2 victims per 100,000 people.
Race and socioeconomic status play a large role in the rate of abuse, women of color are victims of this abuse at higher rates. In 2015, they made up 51% of the total reports. Although more than half of Brazil’s population identify as Black or multiracial, structural racism makes it difficult for people of color to secure financial security. Women of color are especially affected by this issue, as Black women reportedly make 44.4% less than white men. In turn, the economic strain caused by poverty or poverty-like conditions often leads to at-home tension and abuse. This also makes it difficult for women of color to leave abusive partners.
Impact of COVID-19
Government-sanctioned lockdowns and weakened economic prospects intensified the impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence in Brazil, along with femicide. The economy plummeted by 4.1% in 2020, so many couples were forced out of the workforce. The reality of this occurrence, along with the increase of COVID-19 cases, likely increased tensions at home. In turn, women who might have already faced domestic abuse became susceptible to this abuse for longer periods of time. They were also physically and mentally isolated from outside support systems.
Soon after the implementation of social distancing, femicides rose by 22%, marking a distinct impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence in Brazil. In total, Brazil recorded approximately 650 cases of femicide halfway through 2020. Although the reported number of abuse-related cases seemingly went down in some areas, officials believe that this came as a result of pandemic-related difficulties in reporting abuse. In São Paulo alone, police saw a 44% rise in calls from women facing domestic abuse.
Solutions for Domestic Violence in Brazil
Protective services that aided survivors of domestic violence and abuse in Brazil existed before COVID-19. The 2006 Maria de Penha law established police centers and shelters for women, along with stricter sentences for abusers. The Wilson Center reports that states such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro keep police stations open 24 hours a day, and survivors can send in virtual domestic violence reports. However, many emergency services for survivors of abuse are now limited. For example, operations at the Rio de Janeiro Specialized Centers for Assistance to Women are now suspended.
In turn, the Maria de Penha Women’s Assistance Center, also known as Instituto Maria de Penha (IMP), continues to fight for survivors of domestic abuse. The center provides workshops, courses and projects that educate the public on domestic violence. Additionally, the IMP carries out a survey that gathers statistics on gender violence in Brazil and aims to create a database for this information. This survey is known as The Research on Socioeconomic Conditions and Domestic and Family Violence Against Women.
Through the tightening of laws, the broadening of cultural attitudes and expansion of protective services, advocates hope to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence in Brazil soon.
– Cory Utsey
Photo: Wikimedia Commons