Defend Maria da Penha

Image: Ayaan Sulaiman


Fight for women's lives, for the advancement of science, in the name of those killed by the lack of vaccines, against the return of ignorance, against the authoritarian conservative right

Maria da penha is being threatened with death. It was necessary for the Minister of Women, Cida Gonçalves, to appeal to the governor of Ceará, Elmano de Freitas, to include her in the protection system. Why do they want to kill a woman who twice escaped from her ex-husband who made an attempt on her life and who, the second time, left her paralyzed?

Brazil's position at the time, in letting the criminal go free, was so scandalous that a huge revolt arose from the movement led by feminists. Only when the case was brought to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS), that Brazil was forced to review and condemn the criminal to prevent Brazil itself from being condemned.

Today, even children know that there is a law to protect women, the Maria da Penha Law. Ironically, the law that bears her name does not protect her!

Brazil leads in feminicides and rapes of women and girls, in addition to all forms of physical, sexual, psychological violence, among others. Certainly, this violence is the patriarchy’s response to women – of all social classes, ethnicities, origins, ages - who broke the “fenced” that confined them.

Machismo does not accept changes that undermine its power, it is reluctant to change the configuration of the heterosexual family; that marriage be between people of the same sex; that increase families of solo women; that motherhood stops being romanticized; that women have the power to reduce the number of children.

Women diversified the fields of work, occupying the service sector, scientific areas and research; the proportion of women with university degrees increased. Sexuality is no longer a male privilege, the woman's body has been freed.

Faced with this new scenario, attacks increased and diversified. Attacks grow as women enter politics – local, state or federal. Moral constraints, sexual harassment and homophobia begin in the pre-election phase, making it difficult for women to join political parties. They are persecuted during campaigns and the pressure increases during the term of office.

It is not too much to reflect that, to resist gender equality, the Chamber and its president had unearthed PL 1904, which foresees making legal abortion more difficult, limiting it to 22 weeks of gestation! AND 23 seconds were enough to approve the urgent procedure of such a freak! The intense and national popular reaction caused the project to be removed from the agenda (but, be careful, it will return in the second half of the year).

The retreat of the president of the Chamber of Deputies when interfering in a vital issue for women revealed how society was following political life much more closely than the political class imagined. We have rarely seen in Brazil demonstrations by young women and others over 70 years of age, as well as men carrying children, stating that they were returning to the streets to once again defend rights conquered in 1940 and ratified in the 1988 Constitution.

Voices that screamed against the conservative and authoritarian government of Jair Bolsonaro, which had closed institutions created by previous governments to combat gender-based violence. They called for the reopening of hospitals and the SUS to deal with cases of rape and legal abortion.

Defending Maria da Penha means fighting for women's lives, for the advancement of science, in the name of those who died due to the lack of vaccines, against the return of ignorance, against the authoritarian conservative right. Maria da Penha invigorates us to remember every day the human rights of everyone, and that we will fight against those who want to destroy democracy itself.

*Eva Alterman Blay She is a retired professor at the Department of Sociology at USP and a former senator. Author, among other books, of Brazil as a destination: roots of contemporary Jewish immigration to São Paulo (unesp).

Originally published on Journal of USP.

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