Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

Brazil: Availability of protection for women who are subject to domestic abuse by present or former husbands, common-law spouses or boyfriends (1999-2000)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 23 October 2000
Citation / Document Symbol BRA35562.E
Reference 5
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Brazil: Availability of protection for women who are subject to domestic abuse by present or former husbands, common-law spouses or boyfriends (1999-2000), 23 October 2000, BRA35562.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The information that follows adds to that provided in BRA30173.E of 7 October 1998. Please note that most of the information found refers to punitive measures and legal procedures for actions that have taken place, not preventive protection measures.

The Brazilian Feminist Centre of Studies and Counselling (Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assessoria) reported on the legal measures against domestic violence and the procedures that women should follow in such cases; the report, however, focuses on physical assault and threats, not other common abuses such as financial abandonment (abandono material), immoral violent assault (atentado violento ao pudor) and rape (CFEMEA 13 Sept. 2000). The report states that Brazil has no legislation specific to domestic violence, but its Penal Code and other laws deal with this type of crime (ibid.).

According to the report, physical injury is classified as minor (leve), grave, and very grave (gravíssima) (ibid.). In case of physical injury, the victim should seek help and a safe place, obtain medical assistance if necessary, report the incident to a police station (preferably a Women's Police Station), demand from the police an incident report (Boletim de Ocorrência, BO) and a referral to an examination at the Medico-Legal Institute (IML) (ibid.). Penalties vary, ranging from one to five years in jail for grave injury, and from four to eight years for very grave injury; however, penalties can be diminished or increased, or replaced by a fine (ibid.). A victim of physical injury can also pursue a civil action against the attacker for compensation; in such a case, a lawyer or assistance from a public attorney (defensoria pública) would be needed (ibid.).

When a victim is threatened, the report states that the recommended procedure is to distance oneself from the threatening person and seek help from someone else, report the incident to a police station (preferably a Women's Police Station) and obtain an incident report, and indicate to the police of witnesses if there are any (ibid.). The penalty for threats is 1 to 6 months of detention or a fine (ibid.).

Country Reports 1999 provides the following statements and statistics on the subject:

The most pervasive violations of women's rights involved sexual and domestic violence, which are both widespread and vastly underreported. There is a high incidence of physical abuse of women. Most major cities and towns have established special police offices to deal with crimes of domestic or sexual violence against women; such offices total over 200. Rapes reported to the police in the state of Rio de Janeiro increased 45 percent in the period between 1994 and 1998, the last year for which data were available, according to the state secretariat for public security. Both state authorities and women's rights activists agree that a large number of rapes go unreported. According to a study carried out in two middle class neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro in 1998, only 10 percent of women who had suffered violent attacks reported them to the police. The Sao Paulo Center for Assistance to Female Victims of Sexual Violence reported that 400 women sought the center's intervention in rape cases after receiving no help from the police in 1998. In rural areas, abused women have little recourse since there are no specialized offices available to them.

Men who commit crimes against women, including sexual assault and murder, are unlikely to be brought to trial. Although the Supreme Court in 1991 struck down the archaic concept of "defense of honor" as a justification for killing one's wife, courts are still reluctant to prosecute and convict men who claim that they attacked their wives for infidelity. Preliminary results from a study done by an academic at the Catholic Pontifical University of Sao Paulo indicate that 70 percent of criminal complaints regarding domestic violence against women are suspended without a conclusion. Only 2 percent of criminal complaints of violence against women lead to convictions. In June 1998, the National Movement for Human Rights reported that female murder victims were 30 times more likely to be killed by current or former husbands or lovers than by others. The state of Rio de Janeiro opened two shelters for victims of domestic violence during the year, bringing the total number in the state to four (Feb. 2000, Section 5.e).

Section 1.e of Country Reports 1999 also discusses the possible limitations of judicial action or "fair public trial" in Brazil.

A 1999 report on violence against women in Goiania states that since the Women's Police Stations (see BRA30173.E) were opened in 1985, an increasing number of women have been reporting domestic abuse from its onset rather than when it was felt it had become unbearable (Mulher 25 Oct. 1999). However, many women continue to be reluctant to report such abuse because of their financial dependence on the partner, or hide it even from their families out of a sense of shame, and it is quite common for the Women's Police Station to receive reports of domestic abuse from concerned neighbours (ibid.). The report states that most of the 2,098 cases of violence against women reported before the Women's Police Station of Goiania in 1998 were perpetrated by partners (husbands, common-law spouses and boyfriends), and that the incidence of such violence continues to be high in recent years because the underlying causes have not disappeared (ibid.).

A more recent report published by Fempress states that women who report domestic violence before the Women's Police Stations are taken to Minor Offence courts (juzgados de Causas Menores), where the incidents are treated as a minor problem of conflict between spouses, adding that it is not unusual for a judge to decide that the male attacker provide the victim with a minimum wage allowance (canasta básica) (Feb./Mar. 2000).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assessoria (CFEMEA), Sao Paulo. 13 September 2000. "Guia FEMEA 82." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2000]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999. February 2000. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 19 Oct. 2000]

Fempress [Santiago, Chile]. No. 219. February/March 2000. Eva Alterman Blay. "Asesinadas y no asesinas." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2000]

Mulher [Sao Paulo]. 25 October 1999. Maria José Braga. "Violência ainda é assustadora." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2000]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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