Four women have been killed every day so far this year in Brazil – with human rights campaigners raising alarm bells about the death toll.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the human rights arm of the 35-member Organization of American States, branded the death rate “alarming” and called for more to be done to stop femicides in Brazil.
“The commission calls on the Brazilian State to implement comprehensive strategies to prevent these acts, fulfill its obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible, as well as to offer protection and comprehensive reparation to all victims,” the Washington-based IACHR said in a statement.
Brazil only has 74 shelters for victims of domestic violence despite having a population of more than 200 million, according to Human Rights Watch.
The IACHR said women killed in Brazil are often shot dead in their own homes at the hands of current or former boyfriends who have a history of domestic abuse.
“The commission notes with concern that in most cases, the murdered women had previously denounced their aggressors, faced serious acts of domestic violence, or suffered previous attacks or attempted homicides,” the IACHR said.
Brazil passed a law in 2015 that criminalized femicide, the gender-motivated killing of women, and set tougher jail sentences of up to 30 years for those responsible for such crimes. The law which was announced to coincide with International Women’s Day established a legal definition of the crime.
Brazil is among around 15 other countries in Latin America that has implemented laws against femicide in recent years. According to the United Nations, the region has the world’s highest rates of femicide.
Commissioner Margarette May, IACHR president and rapporteur for women’s rights, said Brazil’s 2015 law on femicide was a crucial step in making murders of women more visible.
“However, it is now essential to strengthen prevention and protection measures,” Ms May said in a statement. “It is inadmissible that women with protection orders are murdered, that they do not have sufficient shelters or that their complaints are not properly taken into consideration.”
Femicides are not an “isolated problem” but reflect “sexist values deeply rooted in Brazilian society,” the IACHR said.
The rights organisation noted that black women, those belonging to indigenous groups and the LGBT+ community, as well as women politicians and human rights activists are most at risk of being killed.
The murder of Marielle Franco – a Brazilian feminist LGBT+ human rights defender and Rio de Janeiro councilwoman who was shot four times in the head after leaving a public meeting in downtown Rio last March – triggered worldwide outrage and protests. Her killing remains unsolved.
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office last month, renamed the existing Ministry of Human Rights to the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, and lumped indigenous rights with women’s issues.
More than 1,000 women were killed in hate crimes tied to their gender in Brazil in 2017. Latin America’s largest nation has long been the world leader in overall homicides, and its murder rate is also one of the highest.
Last year, research revealed violent deaths of LGBT+ people in Brazil had hit an all-time high following a sudden spike in 2017. According to LGBT+ watchdog group Grupo Gay de Bahia, at least 445 LGBT+ Brazilians died as victims of homophobia in 2017 – a 30 per cent increase from 2016.
According to an Amnesty International report, of 1,275 registered cases of killings by on-duty police between 2010 and 2013, 99.5 per cent of the victims were men, 79 per cent were black and 7 per cent were between the ages of 15 and 29.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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