Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape; sentences for convictions range from six to 30 years in prison. Domestic violence remained both widespread and underreported to the authorities, due to fear of retribution, further violence, and social stigma. The law stipulates a penalty of three months to three years in prison for persons who commit domestic violence, and authorities generally enforced the law effectively. Official statistics regarding the number of prosecutions and convictions were not available.
The federal government continued to operate a toll-free nationwide hotline for women. In 2012 the hotline registered 732,468 calls reporting domestic violence, 11 percent more than in 2011. Calls to the hotline leveled off after an initial surge, which government officials attributed to greater awareness among women of the hotline program. According to hotline data, 57 percent of the complaints received in 2012 concerned physical abuse. An international hotline service enabled Brazilian victims of gender-based violence to call in from Italy, Spain, and Portugal. In the first six months of the year, the international service received 90 calls, resulting in 33 women receiving assistance abroad.
In March President Rousseff launched the 265 million reais ($114.2 million) “Women, Living Without Violence” initiative to improve service to victims of gender-based violence. The program aims to increase the capacity of the women’s hotline, provide more public health-care options for women, and construct 27 women’s centers throughout the country that integrate specialized police, judicial, prosecutorial, health, employment, and other ministerial resources.
In January the Pernambuco State Technical Chamber for Combating Violence against Women began operations as part of a statewide public security initiative. The chamber is responsible for monitoring and reporting monthly to the governor all actions taken to promote the eradication of violence against women.
In April the Espirito Santo State Court of Justice and the city of Vitoria distributed a “panic button” device to 100 victims of domestic violence as part of the municipality’s protection program. The device can send an alert with the victim’s exact location to a monitoring center and also capture and record conversations that can be used as evidence in court.
A report by the Rio de Janeiro Public Security Institute revealed an increase in the number of reported rapes in the state. According to the report, from January to July there were 3,453 cases, compared with 2,928 during the same period in 2012. Authorities attributed the increase partly to victims’ increased willingness to report assaults.
The Sao Paulo State Court of Justice created three new special courts of domestic and family violence against women. As of September the state of Sao Paulo had a total of 10 special courts to deal with domestic violence. As of July the courts had considered 35,959 cases, mostly related to threats of violence, rape, and coercion. There was no information available on the number of prosecutions or convictions.
Each state secretariat for public security operated police stations dedicated exclusively to addressing crimes against women. The 381 stations provided psychological counseling, temporary shelter, and hospital treatment for victims of domestic violence and rape, as well as criminal prosecution assistance by investigating incidents and forwarding evidence to courts. There were also 218 reference centers and 77 temporary women’s shelters operated by state and local governments. The Secretariat for Women’s Policies reported that fewer than 10 percent of municipalities had a dedicated space for the protection and care of victims of gender-based violence.
The Secretariat for Women’s Policies published the Third National Plan on Women’s Policies in August. The plan’s main focus was to address gender inequality through public policies that promote the economic, cultural, and political autonomy of women in order to eradicate extreme poverty and enable full participation in society. The Secretariat for Women’s Policies acted as the coordinating agency for all actions carried out under the Third National Plan and evaluated the end results across government organs.
The law requires health facilities to contact the police about cases in which a woman was harmed physically, sexually, or psychologically to collect evidence and statements should the victim decide to prosecute.
The Chamber of Deputies’ Special Office of Women’s Promotion remained active. The office undertakes surveys and studies on the situation of women, specifically pertaining to gender-based violence; works with international organizations and NGOs to share best practices; and heads a network of protection for victims of gender-based violence in conjunction with NGOs, state, and local governments. In March the Senate approved the creation of its own Special Office of Women’s Promotion.
A study on gender-based violence (GBV) published by the Institute for Applied Economic Research reported that between 2009 and 2011, the country registered nearly six killings for every 100,000 women. The states of Espirito Santo, Bahia, and Alagoas had the highest levels of GBV-related killings, with 11 deaths per 100,000 women. The study also compared data on GBV-related homicides before and after the 2006 passage of the Maria da Penha law to reduce domestic violence and found that GBV rates had remained stable since 2001.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison. The law encompasses sexual advances in the workplace or educational institutions and between service providers or clients. In the workplace it applies only in hierarchical situations where the harasser is of higher rank or position than the victim. The government generally enforced sexual harassment laws effectively. No official data were available on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, but in a survey conducted by the Sao Paulo Secretary’s Union, 25 percent of secretaries in the state claimed to have been sexually harassed by their supervisors.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on contraception; skilled attendance at delivery; and prenatal, postpartum, and essential obstetric care generally were available. According to the 2013 UN Population Fund report, skilled health personnel assisted in 99 percent of births.
Discrimination: The cabinet-level Secretariat for Women’s Policies supervises a special entity charged with overseeing the legal rights of women. Women’s labor force participation (75 percent) was below that of men (85 percent), and women were more likely to work in the informal sector. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender in employment and wages, the IBGE reported that in 2011 women received 72 percent of the income of men for comparable work.