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 realising their ambitions, and Plan International has been leading a national campaign against this violence.
Every day we face prejudice and are excluded from society. It’s about time our voices were heard
Last month a video of a Brazilian girl being sexually assaulted by several men emerged on social media. It highlights the vastly unreported violence in the country. Estimates suggest that over 500,000 rapes occur each year*, yet only 10% are reported.
In São Paulo, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds*. “Most women in my community are beaten by men, but they keep quiet because their husbands are too violent,” says Raimunda from São Luís in Maranhão, where Plan International is working with the local population to reduce violence.
Violence is also common in public places and simple acts such as walking to school are dangerous. “You can’t walk alone or you might get attacked. The only places I feel safe are at school and home,” says Larice, 18.
Girls take the lead
As part of Plan International Brazil’s Girl Leadership Project, girls are working to end gender-based violence by questioning the local government on violence laws.
Luca Sinesi, Plan International Brazil’s Programme Director says, “When we see girls take on politicians and speak up for their rights, it makes a big difference. Their voice represents their realities and it is the first step to ensuring they can grow up in an environment where they can learn, lead, decide and thrive.”
Authorities are also working to combat violence against girls and women. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the Maria de Penha law – a landmark ruling that was in put in place with the intent of tackling domestic violence.
Kazumi Tanaka, Chief Commissioner of the Special Women’s Police Unit in Maranhão says, “Violence against women is the most common crime in Brazil. There are 2 reasons violence continues to take place. Women not only live in fear, but there is a deep-rooted emotional dependency, where they feel unworthy without a man.
“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.”
To ensure all women across the region 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.
Changing attitudes towards violence
Join the global movement for girls' rights As a result of the Girl Leadership Project, girls from São Luís are among a growing number of young people who are ready to change attitudes in Brazilian society and put an end to violence.
Maria Fernanda, 18, says: “Violence against girls and women needs to stop. Every day we face prejudice and are excluded from society. It’s about time our voices were heard.”
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