Violence Against Women in the First Month of 2014 Begs us to Question how Masculinity Forges Violent Men

Marina Motta – Instituto Promundo Researcher

On the first day of 2014, Brazilians were faced with three pieces of news about extreme violence against women – perpetrated by a husband and two former partners.

The traditional Copacabana New Year’s party, one of the most beautiful and peaceful celebrations in the country, was marked by a jealousy-driven man who tried to strangle his wife. The military police intervened and the man grabbed one of the police officers’ firearms and fired several shots, injuring eleven people – including a seven year old child and a fifteen year old teenager. He was only stopped when the police shot back at him. The shooting caused panic. Police officers reported that while they attempted to stop the aggression, the man repeated, angrily, “I am not stopping because she is my wife.”

In São Gonçalo, a neighbor municipality of Rio de Janeiro, a twenty-four year old woman was brutally attacked and pushed from her flat’s balcony when she came home after a New Year’s party. She died of severe brain trauma. Strong evidence suggests that the perpetrator was her former fiancée, who might have broken into her house. He later notified firefighters about her death and three days later surrendered himself to the police claiming innocence. In the process, a two year old girl became an orphan.

In the morning of January 3rd, a twenty-one year old woman was stabbed several times by her former boyfriend as she arrived to work at shopping center in Tijuca. She was severly injured. Two days after the incident, the aggressor turned himself in to the police and confessed, claiming that he used “prescription medication.” According to him, he “lost control” after being humiliated by his former girlfriend.

Year after year we are confronted with similar stories, always brutal and shocking. In the best-case scenario, the press reports the incident, the police makes an arrest, the judge convicts the aggressor and researchers develop analyses and statistics. But none of these initiatives prevent other tragedies from happening on a daily basis by changing the context in which intimate partner violence occurs.

Despite great legislative progress obtained with the law “Maria da Penha” in 2006, research from IPEA (Brazil’s institute for applied economic research), published in September 2013 , indicate that legislation has not yet succeeded in significantly reducing the rate of women’s murders in Brazil.

Similar research shows that every year, on average 5,600 women are killed in gender conflicts across the country, that is, a woman is killed every hour and a half – simply because she is a woman. One third of them are murdered inside their homes and 40% of these killings are perpetrated by intimate partners, such as boyfriends, fiancées or husbands.

Protection and reporting mechanisms are extremely important, as well as rigorous implementation of laws. Furthermore, several studies show that preventing and reducing violence against women depends on directing attention to the way boys and men are raised and dealt with, and to the type of masculinity that underpins male acts of violence against women.

Men such as the one in Copacabana’s violent incident, claim – with no reservations – that they feel entitled to hit their wives; men like the one in São Gonçalo deal with jealousy by beating their partners to death; men like the one in Tijuca express their anger through violence when they feel humiliated by a woman.

We have to face the world’s historically dominant type of masculinity: misogynistic, homophobic, and extremely violent. As long as men continue to expect women to be submissive and obedient, in charge of all domestic chores and caregiving tasks, the alarming rates of violence against women will not decrease.

It is urgent to transform masculinities in this country by promoting equitable and non-violent gender relations from childhood. These changes need to occur in recreational spaces, where children socialize, and throughout adolescence and adulthood; mainly by forging intimate relationships based on dialogue and non-violent conflict resolutions.

January 2014 started with three emblematic cases of violence against women, but Promundo will work over the next eleven months to challenge the dominant masculinity model and to promote equitable and non-violent masculinities, so that Brazilian women can end 2014 with their lives and dignity.

Collaborate with us, by promoting gender equality and non-violence on a daily basis.

¹“Violência contra a mulher: feminicídios no Brasil”, available at http://www.ipea.gov.br/portal/images/stories/PDFs/130925_sum_estudo_feminicidio_leilagarcia.pdf

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