Domestic violence creates multiple issues for women’s health. It is a ‘wicked problem’ for health professionals and public health systems. Brazil recently approved public policies to manage and care for women victims of domestic violence. Thousands of girls and women across Brazil suffer violence at the hands of men every year. This stems from the culture of machismo, which is deeply entrenched in many Brazilian communities. It affects the choices girls make and prevents them from realizing their ambitions. Plan International has been leading a national campaign against this violence. Most women in some communities are beaten by men but they keep quiet because their husbands are too violent. Violence is also common in public places and simple acts such as walking to school might be dangerous.
Authorities are working to combat violence against girls and women. The Maria de Penha law is a legal landmark in the country which has brought hope to many and provided an opportunity for women to speak out about violence. Before the enactment of the Maria da Penha Law, cases of violence against women were considered a lesser offense and punishment depended heavily on the judge’s interpretation. In this context, many Brazilian women did not report the aggressions because they knew they would probably be ignored by the authorities and their spouses would not be punished. To ensure all women across the country are able to report violence, mobile units have been set up to visit rural communities so women can visit workshops, learn about their rights, and report crimes.
The majority of rapes take place inside the home, by a known perpetrator, he says, adding that the majority of crimes that come under the remit of the Maria da Penha law are those of threats and physical injuries. Despite these difficulties, the awareness around what constitutes violence against women has been increasing and more women are denouncing the domestic violence. However, some experts who work with survivors of domestic violence say that many cases are not reported partially because Brazil’s crisis-stricken government has defunded many programs, poor women of color don’t have the same access to health or legal services and ingrained machismo means women often blame themselves.