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Woment Lawfully Protecting Women

In: Social Issues

Submitted By Amalica1
Words 1884
Pages 8
Women Lawfully Protecting Women: Brazil’s Women Police force

It’s hard for citizens in the United States to consider the idea that honor can be used as a defense for murdering ones spouse when the commit adultery. Or that “violent emotions” could be used to justify a man to kill his wife and her lover when caught. This is not hard for citizens in many other countries to understand, nor is it something that doesn’t cross the men’s minds in countries when their spouses are not faithful. In particular Brazil has seen this happen many times, even as recently as the 1990’s. There are some important changes during that time and there are now Women Police stations set up through out Brazil to combat these crimes and other domestic crimes against women. The set up for these police organizations ran by women started during the recognized women movements in Brazil around 1985. This paper will look into the some of the history and cases in violence against women. Then how women movements helped propel specific gender issues. Lastly discuss the creation of Women Police Departments and their problems and success today.

In 1979, Raul Doca Street, murdered his lover when she wanted to end the relationship. 1981 a famous Brazilian, Lindomar Castilho, shot his wife and her cousin, thought to be lover. In both cases the judge sentenced each man to merely 2 years in prison on the defense of “violent emotion.” Both cases were appealed and due to the protest of women groups they got 15 and 12 years respectfully.[1] The election of a civilian president in 1985 and the creation of the New Brazilian Republic was suppose to lead to better reform for the rights of women. Articles in the Constitution, drafted in 1988, and guaranteed equality of law for women and the government obligation to prevent violence at home. This did little to sway a jury of all men to properly punish Joao Lopez for the murder of his wife Terenzinha, in front of a hospital, and her lover Jose Felix in 1988. His defense was that she insulted his honor. Pressure from women’s groups again lead to Lopez’s retrial in 1991 but again the jury felt honor was a reasonable defense.[2] Women’s right groups have continually displayed the fact the Brazilian government overlooks the severity of domestic violence. Brazilian jury’s continue to allow the defense of honor to persuade them in to lesser penalties and overturn convictions of not only domestic violence but even marital rape. Marital rape isn’t even considered rape, and under Brazilian Civil code lack of sexual relations is grounds for separation. In Brazilian custom rape is more of a crime against a “virgin” than an unwilling person, and also more of a crime to the community. Again these are changes the women’s rights groups are fighting to change in Civil and Penal reforms. [3] The term murder in Brazilian law is a crime against life and is either intentional or unintentional murder. In intentional murder there is a distinction of simple and qualified homicide, the last carries a sentence of 12-30 years. Then qualified homicide is divided in to three categories to determine intent, a base motive, a futile motive and a use of action. An unjust provocation of the victim can allow the defense of “violent emotion” to be acceptable in order to reduce the penalty of the crime.[4] In many cases this “privileged homicide” defense has been used in Brazilian cases of wife-murder. There is also the defense of honor which to defendants can be used as a legitimate self-defense plea, which under Brazilian penal code is a legitimate claim. In most cases the prosecutor has privileged when pursuing the investigation of the case over any attorney the victim or family may hire. When the case has been presented to the judge he decides if it is enough to send to a jury trial and they decide the verdict. Like jury’s in the US they are clearly given instruction on penal code and one that stands out is the honor plea. A legitimate self-defense in Brazil is, “the case of one which using the necessary means with moderation reacts against unjust aggression present or imminent to his right or someone else’s.” Considering the adulterous act a wife commits this can become an unclear but legitimate defense in murder.[5] At the time of the America’s Watch books publication, 1991, women still had a subordinate status to men who are deemed head of household. 1932 gave them the right to vote and 1962 gave them the right to work without their husband’s permission. So in the case of women using the honor defense this was not a legitimate claim. Women were not allowed to act against adulterous husbands in the same way. There are many cases that show husbands killing wives that are merely suspected to have extramarital lovers but no proof using honor as a defense and winning acquittals. It should be noted that the “honor defense” is not acceptable by law as of 1979 it has not prevented defense to use it in jury trials, and knowing this they still succeed.

The fight against violence against women came into public notice in 1985 as the first women’s police station was created in São Paulo Brazil. The station was set up to investigate crimes against women and help council women on their rights as citizens. The surprising part the opening of this police station is that it came at a time Brazil was still dominated by machista culture.[6] The political change that happened that same year helped fuel the creation of the police station and was supported by most feminist groups that were urging the government to treat violence against women as a crime. Of the women’s right groups and feminist groups most notable was SOS-Mulher (SOS-Women), during the 1980’s in the state of São Paulo. SOS-Mulher was made up of women educated in fields of law, social work, and medicine from middle-class households. Their goal was to provide women with emotional support, legal counsel, and assist in registering incidents with the police. [7] In 1983 they were dissolved though due to internal conflicts and changes in state politics. New activist groups worked with the opposition party Partido do Movimento Democratico Brasileiro (PMDB) when they gained control of many state governments and eventually won the 1985 Presidency under José Sarney. Sarney in return for support created the Conselho Nacional dos Direitos da Mulher (CNDM) and staffed it with feminist from governmental and non-governmental organizations. The local PMDB winning governor in São Paulo, Franco Montoro, also created Conselho Estadual da Condicão Feminina (CECF), which was also staffed by prominent women activists. [8] Montoro and the CECF opened up the first women’s police station in the face of resistance from policemen in the police departments in São Paulo. They were designed to investigate and exercise jurisdiction of crimes listed in the newly decreed Brazilian Penal Code, and provide serviced to the female complaints.[9] As a separate division and precinct women were empowered to carry guns and make arrests. The success of the first DDM would determine future funding and replication throughout the city and the rest of the state. [10] The first problems encountered were the training of women police officers. Like their male counterparts they were trained in the same facilities and were subjected to the same gender stereotypes.[11] The curriculum to achieve officer status had its own flaws classes did not provide courses that specifically dealt with violence against women or functions of women’s police stations. As one police delegate states, “We are trained to be police officers, the victim has no sex.”[12] The CECF eventually organize a workshop on violence against women. Both delegados and delegadas, male and female officers, attended in unprecedented numbers. The workshop had feminist speak on their analysis of violence against women and experience with dealing with victims.[13] Even with these workshops available it didn’t really impact the view of policemen and many police women. There was still a sense that the police are not responsible with handling domestic problems and that should be left up to social workers. Even, Rosia Corrrea, the first chief officer was blind to the position feminist took. She had never dealt with specifics in discrimination or violence to women before taking up her position. Her views changed as she attended these workshops and she eventually became a strong advocate for feminism in Brazil. With in the first year five more police stations were opened up due to the popularity and work demand on the first station. Though a greater number of prosecutions happened with the implement of these new stations a rift began to form between the feminist and the DDMs. Feminist still pointed out the lack of gender specific training given to new officers, understaffing, lack of supplies, and the fact they were not staffed with social workers or psychologist as originally intended.[14] There was also an overall change in feminist focus during the 1990’s. Three pointed out by Cecília Santos are the change in the terms “women” to the term “gender, change in consciousness-raising to gender in professional areas of health and security, and “a feminist discourse on violence against women related to the emergence of a medical-therapeutic approach. All of these were influence either by international awareness or local NGO’s working with local feminist groups targeting local health car providers and social workers. Even under the stress of disconnection of feminist groups women’s police stations and police stations continued to grow. As of 1994 only about one-third of all cases reported are even being investigated. Of that very few are still going to trial or actually show signs of prosecution. Though this seems dismal and shows little effectiveness the use of the DDM women’s police departments help sensitize the issue of violence against women in the national and international media. Problems may be rooted in the fact they are still part of a male-dominated police systems. They continue to lack full training in gender specific issues and have over time become separated from the feminist goals they were once founded under.

References Cited
Americas Watch, Criminal Injustice: Violence against Women in Brazil, New York: Human Rights Watch (1991).

Nelson, Sara, “Constructing and Negotiating Gender in Women’s Police Stations in Brazil.” Latin American Perspectives 23. no. 1 (Winter, 1996): 131-148.

Santos, Cecília MacDowell. “En-Gendering the Police: Women’s Police Stations and Feminism in São Paulo.” Latin American Research Review 39, no. 3 (2004): 29-55.
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[1] Sara Nelson, “Constructing and Negotiating Gender in Women’s Police Stations in Brazil,” Latin American Perspectives 23, no.1, (Winter, 1996), 133-134.
[2] America’s Watch, Criminal Injustice: Violence Against Women in Brazil, New York: Human Rights Watch, (1991): 1.
[3] America’s Watch, 3-6.
[4] America’s Watch, 18.
[5] America’s Watch, 21.
[6] Cecilia M. Santos, En-Gendering the Police: Women’s Police Stations and Feminism in São Paulo,” Latin American Research Review 39, no. 3, (2004):29-30.
[7] Nelson, 134.
[8] Santos, 35.
[9] Santos, 36.
[10] Nelson, 137.
[11] Nelson, 137.
[12] Santos, 37.
[13] Santos, 38.
[14] Nelson, 139.

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