The Femicide Act ignores thousands of murders


Illustration: Nicolas Steinmetz for Intercept Brasil

when we talk The Bolsonaro government and the destruction both caused by its incompetence and the deliberate option to destroy it, we always refer to large areas such as health, environment, education and security, which fortunately, during the administration, end, curse. However, more than just one “area,” those who suffer most from the former president’s death campaign have faces, genders, classes, and colors: poor and black women.

This is made clear by a recent study by the Sao da Paz Institute, from which we know that seven out of 10 people killed by firearms in Brazil are black. The number reveals how the release of revolvers and rifles, the former president’s obsession, brought a new dire level of suffering to a population whose existence was already more difficult.

But there is an unresolved issue about these deaths, and it is one that feminist debates and public policy-making need to focus on as well. Traditionally, both institutions and media coverage have made domestic violence or gender hatred the sole cause of murder, excluding women’s deaths occurring in other criminal contexts. 2020 data from the same study shows that homicides that occur outside the home account for 45% of firearm-violent deaths among black women. Inside, that number was 25%.

This disappearance is “How does a woman die?” A central theme of the discussion moderated by sociologist Anna Paola Portella, author of the book. (Editora UFPE), where she publishes research on the multiple vulnerabilities that lead black and poor women – and girls too – to be victims of extreme violence. In 2016, the research won first place in the 5th International Thesis Competition on Public Security, Victimization and Justice in Latin America and the Caribbean, in addition to an honorable mention at the Capes de Theses Prize in 2015.

For its author, President Lula and Minister of Women Cida Gonçalves urgently need to centralize this population in the policies of the new government. “These are people who live in precarious areas of Brazil’s large cities, places of intense social disorganization, where public services are lacking and where violence is unchecked. They can be places controlled by criminal groups, as in the case of Rio de Janeiro, Sierra, Sao Paulo, where you have territorial dominance by certain groups, and they can be areas like here, in Pernambuco, where there is no territorial dominance, but criminal groups are relatively widespread. performance. In these places, there are no measures that lead to the prevention of criminal violence and there is a certain permission for the occurrence of other types of violence”, Portella told me.


Sociologist Ana Paola Portella said, “In areas where aggression and violence are not controlled, conflicts can result in killings, whether with cold weapons or firearms.”


He cites as an example the fights and disputes that occur in environments of illegal drug use, mainly involving crack. “In these areas where there are no measures to control aggression, the most diverse forms of violence, conflicts are more likely to result in killings, whether by cold weapons or firearms. And women are part of that community. They are the daughters, girlfriends, sisters, friends, mothers, brides of the protagonists of this type of conflict. They are often part of the scene, both in crack use and crime. They are wives who go to prison, who carry out orders on behalf of their partners, they are vapourzinhos, they traffic, they do small jobs for the underworld.”

Portella points there to a point that still has little to do with the issue of gender violence: the presence or absence of urbanization, since the higher the level of uncertainty, the more opportunities open to the population, and especially composed of children and women, the cause of elimination. The control of violence is, contrary to what common sense promotes, not only through public safety activities, but also through the existence of elements such as public services, commerce, good lighting, squares, hospitals, transportation.

“There are more people moving around, there is a place where you can run, call a taxi, catch a bus if you are threatened. All of these factors make it harder for violence to occur, so you can seek help, so the process can be interrupted before the attack becomes fatal. In uncertain areas, these barriers do not exist, so various forms of aggression can run rampant. And the women who live in these areas, mostly poor and black, are exposed to it”.

responsible for his own death

It is urgent, in the debate to save the lives of cisgender or transgender women, an action that is driven by the intersectionality of race, class, gender, region – and the intersection of different portfolios that must be spoken to, at the federal level. Ministry of Women. Without overcoming the forms of oppression that characterize women in various ways, thousands of murders will continue to occur “outside” what is labeled femicide.

“So much of the invisibility of death has to do with liberal and white feminism to the same extent that it is part of the dominant strata of society. But this phenomenon is above all the perspective of Brazilian society as a whole. It involves black and poor girls and women, as well as young black men, with deviant behavior and criminal behavior that would justify the violence they suffer. They are seen as less important citizens, and so it can be said that they do not reach the same level of social legitimacy as white and wealthy victims in terms of the right to life”.

According to the sociologist, there are two anchors that keep these deaths under the shadow by “white weapons” (knives, axes, scissors, stones, etc.) or firearms: the main ones are security and the justice system itself, supported by the media, and especially police cases. Covered by the press. They work together in the stigmatizing process, creating portraits of people who don’t even have the right to be victims, just as is often the case with women who are blamed for their own deaths in cases of domestic violence (I address the basis of police coverage in this column). As sociologists have observed, all have been tried and convicted before, even murdered.

‘The construction of the term femicide is particularly important in Latin America to identify a form of lethal violence’.

An important point is added to this scenario: “The femicide law has been applied almost exclusively to cases of domestic violence, excluding about half of the women murdered. It is not a problem of the law, but of its application. Again, it’s a question of cuts, selections of gender, class and race, and how public institutions – which have been dismantled in the last four years – ignore these women, mostly black and poor, and link them to their crimes.”

The criticism made by the sociologist, however, does not serve to diminish the importance of the law on femicide, a crime typed in 2015, during the Dilma Rousseff government, and which changed the penal code and the heinous crime law. “The construction of the term femicide is very important to identify the existence of a type of lethal violence against women that is very different from traditional domestic violence, especially in areas affected by armed conflict and criminal violence, especially in Latin America”, noted Portella. , note that the serial and gruesome incidents of femicide in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, are the matrix for the construction of this term.

Later, the Latin American feminist movement realized that the context of gender violence was reproduced in that city (the motto of Roberto Bolaño’s excellent book 2666). Recife, as the sociologist recalls, was one of the cities studied to think about the concept.

“Politically, it was crucial that we had a word to identify these cases, one that was powerful enough to trigger political movements capable of legislative change. I mean it is a tool for mobilizing and implementing public policies that can meet the context of different countries in the region”, he explained. “Earlier, it was understood as a problem of the private sphere, which should not be solved by state structures. Both domestic violence and femicide laws are tools of visibility, they are imposing laws, they are forcing institutions to act”.

Damares Alves, Senator

Another dramatic issue that often escapes the fight against violence against women is the protection of girls and adolescents, the country’s main rape victims. In June of last year, the 2022 Public Safety Yearbook showed that, in 2021 alone, more than 52,000 Brazilian women were raped, 70% under the age of 14 – that is, people unable to consent to sexual acts, under the law.

The pandemic, which forced many people to stay at home, exacerbated the situation and, combined with the disastrous administration of former Women, Family and Human Rights Minister Damares Alves, they exploded. “This is a very serious problem that needs to be a huge priority in the new government. In the last four years, the children were completely unprotected. We started important work from FHC administration. But, after Dilma’s dismissal, public policies aimed at children began to be dismantled. They will be a priority again, also treated in a transversal way”, said Portella. As an example, he mentioned the support and care network for women victims of violence, collapsed during the Damares administration, which did not spend even half of the ministry’s R$ 853.3 million budget in 2020, prompting the Federal Public Ministry to launch an investigation. .

“There is a policy model that has already been implemented and succeeded. It needs to be amended now, because it was too focused on domestic violence, and today, we already have enough subsidies to make an amendment to prioritize black, young, and poor girls in socially disadvantaged areas. I think that these principles must be expressed along with other social support actions, education, employment and income, racial equality, housing, health. A set of actions that are not directly aimed at the issue of violence, but which are essential to prevent it from occurring. This happens especially with the implementation of policies that promote good living, a dignified life that offers fair income and work”, he highlighted.

Damares went head-to-head with Women’s Minister Cida Gonsalves, who has already announced her defense of legal abortion.

One potential obstacle to further safety for women is the aforementioned Damares Alves. Elected senator of the federal district by the republicans with more than 700,000 votes, he announced as his agenda that he made the same demagogic speech as the minister: “Defense of the family, life and children” – let us think that “life” by “defence”, the senator understands, For example, the impediment to legal abortion of a 10-year-old pregnant child after rape.

In office, Damares faced directly with Cida Gonçalves, who had already announced his defense against legal abortion and should receive demands from different sectors to expand the prevention of pregnancy in cases not yet provided by law. Damares’ new position, however, is seen without alarm by Anna Paula Portella. “In the Senate, you have a counterbalance with other Democratic congressmen. His presence as a minister was very poor. And more: we have the advantage of knowing who Damares is, that is, the sector is ready to deal with him, as it has faced before”, Portella stressed that it is necessary to keep a silent eye on the senator and other members of the legislature whose performance limits the victory of women. or hinder.

“But we don’t have to devote all our energy to it, we have already spent a lot in these four years and we have a huge rebuilding job. We should not let our guard down, but at the same time, these people should not be our main focus. They have already done us a lot of damage. The extreme right needs to be encircled and guarded – but we have to take care of lives”.