Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Passes Femicide Law

Brazilian women are rejoicing at what can be called a victory for women’s rights as President Dilma Rousseff signs a new femicide law. The law, will charge murders linked to domestic violence a sentence of twelve to thirty years in prison.

Dilma Rousseff
Image Courtesy of Dilma Rousseff

Sending a clear message

Rousseff states that the new law is intended to be a ‘clear message’ to women that the state is there to protect them from all forms of violence, citing that over fifteen women are killed every day in Brazil due to domestic violence. The new law alters Brazil’s existing criminal code that describes femicide as ‘any crime that involves domestic violence, discrimination, or contempt against women’.

The law is named after Maria da Penha Fernandes, a Brazilian biopharmaceutist who was beaten by her husband for over 14 years, which eventually culminated to her husband shooting her while asleep, leaving her paraplegic for life. Two weeks after she returned from the hospital, her husband even tried electrocuting her.

Before the ‘Maria da Pehna Law’, domestic violence was widely considered of little importance with an equally little of offense and most aggressors would simply get away with alternative sentences. The new law increases the sentencing from one to three years, with graver cases, such as aggravated murder charges amounting to longer cases, usually up to twelve or thirty years.

A preventive act

Nadine Gasman, Brazil’s UN Women Representative describe the new law as a ‘preventive law’, taking note that the new law now sees femicide as a ‘specific phenomena’. Aside from the increased sentence, the law also orders the removal of the abuser from their home and fully bans them from getting near the victimized woman or child. The new law also protects pregnant women, women over sixty years of age, underage women, and people with disabilities, with their aggressors serving longer jail times.

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The law also establishes instruments to prevent and provide relief to victims of abuse, especially in places within the country where women are most vulnerable. The new law is seeing a rise in more police stations and shelters for women fleeing their abusive spouses and partners. Despite the new law, the statistics are still alarming; with the government reporting that domestic violence is still a serious problem in the country, with murders through domestic violence being reported almost daily.

Many women, however, see the law as a step forward from an otherwise grim reality of womanhood. They are hoping that this will break the cycle of abuse and empower them to take a stand for their rights.