Brazil is the fifth largest country by area in the world and the fifth most populous as well with approximately 190 million inhabitants. The country is predominantly impacted by patriarchal traditions imbibed from the Iberian culture. Although Brazil is believed to have had the most organized and effective women’s movement in Latin America in the past, women are often subject to violence, significant gender inequality and male dominance. We spoke to Suely de Melo, a former Television journalist (Rede Manchete) from Rio de Janeiro about the current circumstances women in Brazil face, what could be done for a radical reformation of their society and how women empowerment could take a front seat in the 21st century.
What is the current situation of women in your country?
Unfortunately in Brazil women are still discriminated on the basis of their color, race, and religion. In general, women are paid less than men even while working in the same designation. We have a recent case here in Brazil of a woman named Marielle Franco who was a feminist, political sociologist, and defender of human rights. She was a woman of color, who came from a poor background and identified herself as bisexual. She constantly denounced abuses of authority by police officers against residents of poor communities in Rio de Janeiro. On March 14, 2018, she, along with her driver, was shot multiple times by two unidentified men and killed while returning from a round table discussion which was titled ‘Young Black Women moving Power Structures’. Her murder resulted in massive protests here and it was a topic of discussion for a long time. With respect to a different case, a law that targets gender-based violence against women known as ‘Lei Maria da Penha’ was passed in 2006. This law was based on a woman named Maria de Penha, who over the course of her of marriage, was domestically abused by her husband, resulting in her becoming paraplegic after two murder attempts. After this law was implemented, Brazil saw a 10% decrease in domestic violence. Nevertheless, women are still unsafe in Brazil if they have strong voices and are social activists advocating gender equality. Also, there are women who are victims of sexual abuse who never complain or prosecute because they are financially dependent on men.
That sounds appalling. What do you think has to be done regarding this and how could ordinary women change society?
Ordinary women are the foundation of society. They are the ones who raise the kids, take care of homes and their husbands. They have the responsibility to educate future generations by teaching their sons to respect women and their daughters to defend their rights. This way they can bring substantial changes to society.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
In my opinion, women will only realize they are empowered when they feel they are as important as their male counterparts; when they have the confidence to respond to abuse, demand their rights, and no longer surrender to situations where they are deemed unworthy. Our empowerment is in our own hands. We need to learn to be more united and accept that we are equals with the same basic human rights.
Tags: Gender Bias, Rio De Janeiro, Society, Women, Women Empowerment, Women In Brazil, Women's Rights