Femicide and citizenship



Article from the recently released book “History, party politics and feminism”

The date of January 15, 2019 will certainly go down in Brazilian history as a great defeat of civilization against barbarism. On that day, President Jair Messias Bolsonaro signed a Decree, without the approval of Congress, which allowed the possession of up to four guns per citizen without having to explain the reasons why a firearm is necessary. Reduces the minimum age for purchasing weapons from 25 to 21 years, extends the carrying of weapons to political authorities and people who respond to criminal proceedings and/or who are convicted of a culpable crime.

The same Decree creates the Firearms Control Statute and substantially alters the Disarmament Statute. In practice, Brazilian society is free to use a firearm with the endorsement of 40% of the voting population, the courts and the STF, with everything. No wonder, on the same day the magazine Veja aired on the internet: “At around 12:5,18 am, the preferred shares of armament manufacturer Taurus appreciated by 8,73%, to 4,49 reais. Common shares, which have less liquidity, rose 9,30%, to 2019 reais. […] The preferred (shares) accounted for a gain of 104,94% in 85,8 and the common ones XNUMX%”.

One thing we cannot deny about the first days of Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s government: despite countless setbacks and several messes up, his main campaign promise was fulfilled and the first invoice with his supporters was settled.

According to the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre – who has not yet been discovered by the Bolsonarist intelligentsia – “hell is other people”. On the same day, January 15, 2019, Alighiery de Oliveira, 25, entered a shopping center in the metropolitan area of ​​Fortaleza with a gun and killed his former partner, Lidyanne Gomes da Silva, 22, with three shots at close range. . Oliveira then killed himself. On the same night, according to the Diario de Pernambuco, two women were also murdered in the Metropolitan Region of Recife. Hairdresser Mariana Roberta da Silva, 23, was stabbed to death in front of her 2- and 6-year-old daughters by her partner. The other victim of violence is Simone Maria da Conceição, 39 years old, who lives on the street and was beaten to death after she went out with a boy.

These three tragedies reported in a single day demonstrate that women could be the biggest victims of this barbarity legitimized by the decree. If we follow the data on femicide in the country – a crime against women because they are women – since 2015, when the Maria da Penha Law was created, it was found that Brazil is the 5th country that kills the most women in the world. Most of these feminicides took place with a firearm, inside the home and committed by ex-partners, partners and relatives of the victims (DataSUS/BBC Monitoring/ Instituto Patrícia Galvão).

If we articulate the project of arming the “good citizen” with the growing curve of femicide crimes in Brazil, and the veto of the governor of São Paulo, João Dória Jr., to the functioning of the Women’s Police Stations for 24 hours, we have a reality tragedy and the possibility of an even worse future. About 40% of the voters of the Brazilian population who elected Bolsonaro and Dória are in favor of carrying a weapon, assume the risk of someone else's death and are not bothered by the extremely high rates of femicide in the country. How to understand and explain the naturalization of femicide and violence in general?

Colonization, slavery and patriarchy

Historians who analyze the dynamics and structures of colonial domination relations have shown that the occupation and conquest of America engendered possibilities for expanding economic, social, political and symbolic resources. The overseas domains, especially the territory of Brazil, represented for the conquerors who arrived here the possibility of becoming “nobles of the land”, through slavery and the detention of monopolies, exercising command over other men and women.

The legal basis of the man's authority over the woman goes back to the Philippine Ordinances, a legal code of the first modernity that regulated life in society in Portugal and its overseas domains, and assured the husband the right to kill his wife. In case she committed the crime of adultery or he suspected treason through rumor.

In Bahia at the end of the 1799th century, we have the case of Ana Romana Lopes, a beautiful, brown and freed woman (freed slave), who lived by selling food at a stall in the downtown area. In 1798, Ana Romana provided one of the main testimonies about the character of João de Deus do Nascimento, one of the defendants hanged and quartered in Praça da Piedade, in Salvador, for the crime of high lese majesty – conspiracy against the Queen of Portugal in a political movement known to this day as Conjuração Baiana of XNUMX. It appears in the case file that Ana Romana Lopes lived a reciprocated, torrid and public passion with João de Deus do Nascimento, tailor, brown and forro, married to Luiza Francisca from Araujo. However, days before João de Deus was arrested for the attempted armed uprising, Ana Romana ended her novel by claiming that she had fallen in love with another man, the powerful and wealthy Secretary of State and Government of Brazil. Bewildered by the end of the novel, João de Deus gave Ana Romana a public beating, leaving her marked for anyone who wanted to see it – an episode that helped in the arguments of the judges of the Court of Appeal of Bahia for the condemnation of João de Deus to the last sentence .

After the hanging of the four defendants on the public scaffold in Praça da Piedade, in Salvador, there is no news of the whereabouts of Ana Romana Lopes. However, it does not seem far-fetched to assume that she was twice condemned to public disgrace. The first with the public beating she received from her lover, who was indignant at having his “honor” tarnished by the rumor of betrayal, as there is no proof of the affair with the said secretary.

The second condemnation resides in the hypothesis that she had the fate of so many other women who, like her, tried to enforce their demands from the small gaps of that highly hierarchical society. In her testimony, Ana Romana was deeply indignant with the beating she received from João de Deus due to the rumor about her passion for another man and wanted to assert her status as a free woman by ending her romance with the accused. However, despite the fact that her testimony served the judicial authorities to condemn João de Deus, together with three other accused, to the gallows followed by the dismemberment of the bodies, everything suggests that Ana Romana was taken into one of the various convents of the third orders that received free, poor and brown women, effectively keeping them cloistered, where they died alone and isolated from colonial society.

In the same Praça da Piedade, in Salvador, in 1847, professor José Estanislau da Silva Lisboa, 28 years old, grandson of the very rich merchant and slave trader José da Silva Lisboa, out of control and furious that Júlia Fetal, 20 years old, had ended the engagement because she had fallen in love with another man, he killed her with a straight shot in the chest. The judgment in the forum in Salvador lasted months and mobilized sectors of the local elite in fervent debates around the “legitimate defense” of the murderer. The prosecution's thesis was about the legitimacy of the crime: João Estanislau's conviction resided in the fact that he had no right to kill Júlia Fetal, as they were not married and, therefore, there was no crime of adultery with the end of the engagement .

The defense's thesis asked for the acquittal of João Estanislau because he had been socially humiliated when he was abandoned by his bride, so that he was out of his mind at the time of the crime. João Estanislau confessed to the crime, refused the thesis of insanity, refused the imperial pardon that Dom Pedro II tried to grant him and served 14 years in prison, a period of imprisonment during which the elite sent their children to prison for them to have lessons with the confessed criminal.

The thesis of “legitimate defense of honor” had a long life in Brazil. From the middle of the 19th century until around 1970, several cases of femicide brought to a jury during this period acquitted the murderers due, above all, to the outcry of society, which killed its victim twice. In the case of Ângela Diniz, for example, who was cowardly murdered with four shots at point-blank range along Doca Street, there was no lack of reports from people who morally condemned the conduct of the victim, whose crime was to be a “fatal woman” as defined by the killer’s defense: beautiful, financially independent and sexually active -, corroborating the argument of "legitimate defense of honor" of the humiliated male, which today, even with the Maria da Penha Law, finds more subtle ways of expression.

Femicide and citizenship

It is true that from that remote past until today, organized civil society has fought and achieved a lot. However, the cited cases of women brutally murdered because they decided to put an end to the relationship or because they asserted their rights as women, suggest that violence and inequality are still projects and the conquest of citizenship in Brazil is a transitory process, with flows and ebbs.

In an article entitled “Lipstick Marks”, published in 2010, Frei Betto asks some questions: Why does a man need to kill, rape or assault a woman who rejects him? Wouldn't it be enough to part with her and get another one? Why do so many seemingly normal and peaceful men react brutally and spitefully when they are slighted or simply replaced? Why is this type of crime accepted, even if tacitly, by society for a long time?

Frei Betto states that in the behavior of the criminal of passion – not just the one who commits the murder – there is an exogenous cause, a social pressure so that he does not accept the woman's self-determination. In addition to the fact of having been despised or called to legal responsibility, the passionate person is concerned with showing friends and family that he is still in charge of his love relationship and that he punished, with rigor, the one who dared to defy him. . “It is the deplorable face of machismo”. For this reason, the subject commits the crime in the presence of witnesses and, later, confesses the authorship of the crime bluntly and in detail. For him, practicing “reckoning” and not demonstrating it publicly is of no use.

According to the author, our Penal Code does not define what a “crime of passion” is, nor does it expressly provide for this type. The doctrine is that this is how the behavior of a man who kills and attacks a woman on suspicion of infidelity or for any other reason is named. It is important to show that passionate homicide, as a rule, is qualified and not privileged. Qualified for a reason that is vile (revenge), for the use of a resource that hinders or prevents the defense of the victim (surprise and public embarrassment), for the use of cruel means (confinement, several shots or stab wounds to the face, abdomen, groin) .

It is not privileged because, in the vast majority of cases, the agent is not under the control of violent emotion right after the supposed provocation of the victim. The subject may be feeling a strong emotion at the time of the crime, but it is an emotion that has been refined and fed over time. That is, the agent had the opportunity to think better, to try to calm down to avoid the crime, but he deliberately did not. Taken by the feeling of revenge, and despite all the consequences of his act, which he is well aware of, he decides to kill and/or rape, and plots his action in order to ambush the victim.

It should be noted that murder is the culmination of a process, it is the final escalation preceded by a series of violent acts such as psychological pressure, humiliation, rape, physical and verbal aggression, slander, defamation of morals and character feminine.

Who does not remember the brutality of the murder of Eliza Samudio, in 2010, who sought protection against the constant physical and moral threats she suffered during the pregnancy of her son, and was killed because she filed a request for alimony, a child's right in law. There were many women who joined the men in calling Eliza a “prostitute”, “call girl” and “Maria Chuteira”, who met the father of her child at a party that the defendant called an orgy – as if someone attended an orgy alone and that was a plausible reason for a human being to die in such a brutal way.

It is regrettable that the “legitimate defense of honor” is still the argument used by the defendant's defense to justify the unjustifiable: a cruelly planned murder. But it is not possible to understand how, in the middle of the 21st century, a considerable portion of Brazilian society chose to arm their country and kill Indians, women, the black population, homosexuals, LGBTIQs. If in 2010, when we were happy and we knew why our institutions actually worked, Eliza Samudio did not have time to stay alive, after the signing of the decree that legitimizes the arming of Brazilian society, the situation could become unsustainable for a large part of the population Brazilian. As well as for the three women, who also did not have time to see the Maria da Penha Law enforced and were brutally murdered on the night of January 15, 2019.

And, just like Ana Romana Lopes (18th century), Júlia Fetal (19th century), Leila Diniz, Eliza Samudio, Lidyanne Gomes da Silva, Marianna Roberta da Silva and Simone Maria da Conceição, condemned twice: to death by their executioners and to public embarrassment by a society that prefers to make fun of a president who threatens to kill his political opponents with an infamous gesture, in most cases of violence against women, impunity for the aggressor is the rule. Precisely because he is unpunished, the aggressor usually repeats the same crime – with other women, without distinction.

*Patricia Valim is a professor of history at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA). She is the author, among other books, of Bahia Conjuration of 1798 (EDUFBA).


Patricia Wallim. History, party politics and feminism. Brasilia, Afipea, 2021, 140 pages. Available in https://afipeasindical.org.br/content/uploads/2021/08/Pilulas-13-1.pdf.


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