Brazil, a woman is beaten every 15 seconds, but this statistic
does not show the true extent of the problem. Every 15 seconds
a Brazilian woman is prevented from leaving her home, every 15
seconds another is forced to have sexual relations against her
will, and every 9 seconds another is criticized for her sexual
conduct or her performance at work, either in or outside the
women in the beginning of the 21st Century
Venturi* e Marisol Recamán**
discrimination and regional imbalance: a profile of social
socioeconomic diversity that define the profile of Brazilian
women make the usage of a singular indicator inaccurate,
because the data vary drastically in some segments of the
female population. At
the time of data collection,
¾ of Brazilian women (76%) lived in homes with monthly
incomes of up to 5 minimum wages (and 42% with a monthly
income of up to 2 minimum wages), and only 8% of women
received above 10 minimum wages. However, in the Northeast,
86% of women lived in families that earned up to 5 times the
minimum wage, and only 5% earned over 10 minimum wages.
Among women who were raised and still lived in rural
areas, 93% had a monthly family income of 5 minimum wages, and
only 1% earned more than 10 minimum wages.
Among white Brazilian women, ⅔ had a monthly
family income of up to 5 minimum wages (67%), yet mixed black
and white women, or black women, 82% and 87%, respectively,
lived in homes with up to 5 minimum wages per month.
Among white women, 11% had family income of over 10
minimum wages per month, but among black women, only 2%
reached this income bracket.
⅔ of women had only basic schooling (66%), but among
white women the proportion is 62%, as opposed to 82% of black
women and 84% of women who were raised and live in the
countryside. Nationwide, only 7% of Brazilian women attain
higher education. However, 9% of white women attain higher
education while this is true of only 5% women of mixed race,
2% of black women, and 1% of women who live in rural areas.
In the Northeast, 43% of women do not pass the 4th year
of basic schooling and only 4% attain higher education, while
in the Southeast, the rates are, respectively, 37% and 7%
evidence of the inequality that delineates significant
differences between Brazilian women can be observed in
computer knowledge and internet access.
At the end of 2001, 28% of women had used computers –
9% stated they used them regularly, 19% stated they used them
occasionally, as opposed to 72% that had never used a computer
and 10% who said they had never seen a computer up close.
As far as internet usage, only 14% had used it (9% had
used it a few times, 5% always used it), and 30% stated they
did not know what the internet was.
this is due to a phenomenon that shows a clear generational
contrast: among adolescents (15 to 17 years of age), although
half had never used a computer (48%) and ¾ had never had
access to the Internet (77%), only 5% had never seen a
computer up close (13% used computers regularly) and 21% did
not know what the internet was.
These figures were gradually worse for each consecutive
age range. Even
in women between 35 and 44, which represents the largest
portion of women in the Economically Active Population (PEA)
(67%), 77% of them had never used a computer (9% had never
seen a computer up close, and only 8% used computers
regularly), and 29% did not know what the world wide web was.
Among older Brazilian women (60 years old or more), 98% had
never used a computer, 23% had never seen a computer up close,
and 57% did not know what the internet was.
generational differences, regional, racial, and social
inequalities again make themselves present when examining
frequent computer use: 11% of women in the South of Brazil and
15% of women in capital cities, as compared to 5% of women in
the Northeast and 2% of rural residents; 12% of white women
and 39% of women with monthly salaries of more than 10 minimum
wages, as compared to 7% of women of mixed race (black and
white) and 5% of black women, and only 1% of women with a
monthly salary of up to two minimum wages. In October 2001,
16% of Southern women had ever navigated the internet, 24% of
residents of capital cities, 17% of white women, and 60% of
Brazilian women with monthly salaries above 10 minimum wages;
8% of Northeastern women, 3% of rural residents, 4% of black
women, and 2% of women with monthly salaries of less than two
minimum wages had ever used the internet.
in the workforce, double shifts, and domestic violence
contrast to the differences that come from regional, class,
and racial inequalities, Brazilian women share similar
experiences of discrimination and oppression. At the time of
data collection, a little more than half of Brazilian women
(53%) were a part of the Active Economic Population (PEA): 40%
were doing some type of remunerated work and 12% were
those who were not a part of the PEA (47%), the majority had
done remunerated work (31%), and only 17% had never entered
asked if they could freely choose between “working outside
the home and dedicate yourself less to the home and family,”
or “dedicate yourself more to the home and family, leaving
work outside the home as a second priority,” the majority
opted for autonomy (55%), in detriment to the traditional
gender role (38%).
the research also confirms the predominance of the precarious
character of the participation of women in the PEA. Of those
who were doing remunerated work (40%), almost 3/5 of them
(57%) were in the informal work sector, mostly autonomous
“irregulars” (35%) or as salaried woman who aren’t
registered professionally (15%), while less than half the
women (42%) were in the formal work sector, principally as
registered salaried women (22%) and civil workers (15%).
an average work week of 33 hours and 41 minutes (38 hours and
55 minutes in the formal market, 29 hours and 49 minutes in
the informal market), close to ⅔ declared that they work
regularly, while ⅓ of them do odd jobs or temporary
work. Including other eventual sources of salary with their
remunerated work ⅔ had individual salary of up to two
minimum wages per month (65%), while 40% had a salary of up to
one minimum wage per month—a range within which 59% of the
women in the informal sector fell, 62% of residents of the
Northeast, 75% of adolescents, 76% of those who were never
schooled, or 60% of those who never went beyond 4th grade; 47%
of black women workers and 45% of those who were mixed black
and white, as opposed to 33% of the white women.
this grim picture—worse than the men in whichever segment
examined, as the IBGE Census 2000 data demonstrated—the
second issue that compromises the conquest obtained by
Brazilian women with their growing participation in the
workforce is the weakness of the male counterpart in the
division of domestic work.
a result of their participation in the PEA, close to ⅓
of homes (32%) have women as the primary person responsible
for financially supporting the household, while in ⅔ of
homes the person responsible is the man (66%).
At the time of data collection, 21% of the women
interviewed were principal providers, in 7% of the homes their
mothers were the principal providers, and in 4% it was other
women (in 12% of the homes that had women there weren’t any
men, including 3% that lived alone).
married or “partnered” women (57%), 87% reside in homes in
which the principal provider is a man (in 83% are their
partners) and 12% in which the principal person responsible
for supporting the home is a woman (in 9% of the cases, the
woman herself). Another 36% are supporting providers, which
makes the participation in the family salary of 45% of women
with partners. Once the partners are examined, another 10% are
supporting providers, which makes
93% of male participation, as opposed to 45% of female
participation, as those responsible for supporting Brazilian
households in which there are cohabitating couples.
about the division of domestic work? In 96% of homes where
women live, a woman is the primary person responsible for the
execution or orientation of the household chores. Three of four women interviewed (75%) stated that they were
the ones principally responsible for non-remunerated work (in
14% of homes it is the woman’s mother who is responsible)
and 18% declare themselves assistants, accounting for 93% of
participation in household chores. Among the 43% of single
women, 54% are responsible for the household chores (in 30% of
the cases it is their mothers) and 35% are assistants,
accounting for 89% of participation.
Among those who live with their husband or partner, 91%
are the principal people responsible for household chores and
6% are assistants, increasing total participation to 97%.
contrast, in only 2% of homes in which there are women living
is there a man principally responsible for household work (1%
is the partner, 1% is another person living in the home) and
in only 19% do men assist with the chores (10% being the
partners). In family units in which a couple lives together,
2% of male partners are principally responsible for work
around the house and 18% assist.
We have, therefore, a male participation of only 20% of
the cases, as opposed to an almost absolute female
participation (97%) in household work.
conclusion, in Brazilian couples, while almost all men are
breadwinners (93%) and almost all women execute or oversee
work around the house (97%), almost half of women are also
breadwinners (45%), as opposed to only 1/5 of men who
participate in household chores (20%).
This degree of inequality in the sexual division of
social labor becomes evident as the weight of the double
accumulation of paying and non paying work has fallen upon
women who, either by desire or by necessity have advanced in
the direction of their self-determination.
what is the burden of the double shift? When questioned about
the amount of time dedicated to caring for the home and family
in the week prior to data collection, the women interviewed
stated an average weekly shift of 39 hours and 36 minutes (23
hours and 52 minutes cleaning the house, cooking, washing and
ironing clothes; 13 hours and 57 minutes caring for children,
and 1 hour and 47 minutes caring for the elderly and sick).
The average is reduced to 27 hours and 47 minutes among
unmarried women, and increases to 48 hours and 30 minutes
among women who live with their husbands—as opposed to 5
hours and 36 minutes of their partners’ time, according to
the women. For
those who were already out of the PEA, the average reaches 43
hours and 42 minutes, falling to 35 hours and 48 minutes among
women in the PEA. The
average for women in the formal work sector is 27 hours, and
35 hours and 24 minutes for those in the informal work sector
(51 hours among unemployed women). When added to the hours of
remunerated work, the double shift adds up to 66 hours a week
for women in the formal PEA and 65 hours for women in the
any phenomenon of oppression, however, its social reproduction
would not occur if it were not for the internalization of the
dominant practices and values by the oppressed. Thus, even when complaining about the exploitation they
experience in the domestic world, women do not stop expressing
hegemonic opinions about the society in which they live.
Although the majority of Brazilian women (87%) agree
that “men and women should equally divide up housework”
(71% agree completely, 17% partially agree), at the same time
they believe that women should have the final word about how
it should be done (71% in agreement, 47% agree completely, 24%
partially agree), and believe that “even if they want to,
men do not know how to do housework” (55%, 35% and 20%,
respectively). These attitudes reveal self-worth regarding the knowledge
acquired in the female world, an important element in this
transitional moment of the woman’s social role—but they
can also contribute to perpetuating men’s low level of
participation in housework.
Confirming once again the power of the reproduction of
unequal roles in society, this study reveals that in homes
with children under 18 years of age, 29% of the time daughters
become assistants in housework as opposed to 9% for sons. Even
for women who do not live with a partner, daughters and
sisters help more (11% and 15%, respectively) than sons and
brothers (3% each).
other facet of the sexist standard that characterizes gender
relations nationwide is expressed in data related to domestic
violence against women—a phenomenon whose existence is
acknowledged, but about which there is little discussion.
to one in five Brazilian women (19%) spontaneously declare
they have been victims of some type of violence on the part of
a man: 16% relate cases of physical violence, 2% cite some
kind of psychological violence, and 1% cite sexual assault. However, when different types of aggression are suggested to
them, the rate of violence against women exceeds twice the
previous rate, reaching an alarming 43%.
A third of women admit to having been a victim, at one
point in their lives, of some type of physical violence (24%
from threats with a weapon to denying them the right to come
and go freely; 22% of actual physical violence and 13% of
marital rape or sexual abuse); 27% suffered psychological
violence and 11% affirm that they have been victims of sexual
assault, 10% of which involved an abuse of power, recently
made explicit in law.
most common manifestations of domestic violence are more mild;
slaps and pushes (suffered at least once by 20% of women
interviewed), and threats by breaking things, torn clothing,
objects thrown, etc. (15%); psychological violence, such as
name-calling and offenses to moral conduct (18%), systematic
criticisms of their performance as mothers (18% among those
who have or had children), and the devaluing of their work,
either in or outside of the home (12%).
But 12% also stated that they had suffered threats of
physical violence to them and their children and 11% did
suffer beatings, with cuts, bruises, or fractures.
Eleven percent had experienced forced sexual relations
(the majority was marital rape, still inexistent in Brazilian
penal legislation); 9% had been locked in their homes, not
allowed to leave or work; 8% had been threatened with firearms
and 6% suffered abuse, forced to perform sexual acts that they
did not enjoy.
projection of the rate of beatings (11%) for the Brazilian
female population at large (61.5 million) indicates that at
least 6.8 million of living Brazilian women have been beaten
at least once in their lives.
Of the women interviewed, 31% declared that the last
occurrence was in the period of 12 months prior to the study,
suggesting that 2.1 million women are beaten a year, 175
million per month, 5,800 per day, 243 per hour or 4 per
minute—one every 15 seconds.
women who stated they had been beaten, 32% affirmed that it
only happened once, but 20% said that it occurred 2 or 3 times
and 11% said they had been beaten more than 10 times, or
“several times.” Another
15% said they did not know how many times they had been
beaten, but the amount of time they had been exposed to this
type of violence—among them, 4% had been beaten for “more
than 10 years,” or “my whole life” (another 4%).
Naturally, we are speaking of the survivors.
And if we consider the fact that, despite the
methodological procedures adopted to create a climate of trust
in the interviews, certainly a number of women interviewed
were not able to overcome the fear or discomfort of
confession, one can conclude that the rate of one
woman beaten every 15 seconds in Brazil still hides the
true extent of the problem.
same is true of the other expressions of violence against
women that were investigated, which indicate rates that are
equally obscene: every 15 seconds a Brazilian woman is
prevented from leaving her home, every 15 seconds another is
forced to have sexual relations against her will, and every 9
seconds another is criticized for her sexual conduct or her
performance at work, either in or outside the home.
numbers show that violence against women in Brazil, far from
being a problem that should be restricted to the privacy of a
couple’s home, constitutes a social phenomenon that is
widely found, and requires ample and accessible public
responsibility of the husband or partner as the principal
aggressor varies between 53% (armed threats of bodily harm)
and 70% (breaking objects) of the occurrences of violence in
any of the modalities that were investigated, except for
sexual assault. Other
aggressors that were commonly cited were ex-husbands,
ex-partners and ex-boyfriends, which, added to husbands and
partners, make up a solid majority.
Jealousy (many times of the woman) comes up as the
principal apparent cause of violence, along with the man being
under the influence of alcohol at the time of the
aggression—both spontaneously mentioned by 21% of the women
the transversality of the phenomenon, in general, violence
declines with the increase of monthly family salary and
schooling. Regarding explicit forms of aggression, the rate
falls from 27% against women with a monthly family income of
up to 2 minimum wages, to 14% against those with a salary of
over 20 minimum wages; sexual forms of violence (marital rape
and abuse) drop from 17% to 10% in these same segments, and
forms of threats and restrictions drop from 29% to 16%.
Psychological violence decreases a bit, going from 30% to 21%,
when observing family salary.
almost all types of violence, more than half the women do not
seek help. Only
in cases that are considered grave, like threats with firearms
and beatings, a little more than half the victims (55% and
53%, respectively) ask someone to help them—an appeal that
usually falls to another woman in the family, mother or
sister, or to a close female friend.
The cases of public denunciation are even less
frequent, occurring in cases of armed threats of bodily harm
(31%), beatings (21%) and threats of beatings (19%).
The public agency most often used to denounce domestic
violence is the local police station.
The Women’s Station (Delegacia da Mulher) is reached
in only 5% of cases of beatings.
the six proposals for public policy to combat violence against
women that were suggested in this study, the creation of
shelters for victims of violence and their children was most
popular (43% chose it as their first choice, 74% chose it as
one of their top three choices). The creation of Specialized
Stations to attend to victims came up as the second most
popular (21% and 60%, respectively), followed by psychological
services (12% and 51%), by a free telephone service, such as
SOS Mulher (13% and 44%) and by legal orientation services for
victims of violence (5% and 40%).
In last place was the proposal to have TV and radio
campaigns against violence against women (5% and 26%),
curiously the only proposal of a preventive character among
those investigated, since the other proposals only serve to
intervene after the damage has been done.
course, other proposals could have been tested, such as an
approach to the problem in schools since elementary school, as
a specific discipline about human rights. The dimension of the
phenomenon that was observed in this study indicates that,
however necessary and important they are, setting up shelters
for victims even on a large scale, is insufficient. This
problem demands active educational policies that can reach our
society as a whole.
a different voice
short, people are mistaken if they think of Brazilian women
today and visualize a housewife, conformed and happy with her
dependence on and submission to her husband, or who is waiting
to meet one. This
is not how they see themselves, and this is not how they live.
The participation in the workforce, either already conquered
or a goal for the majority of women, is valued over all as a
means to construct their autonomy, or at least to bring
economic independence in relation to men.
questioned at the beginning of the interview about the first
thing they would do to make all women’s lives better, the
most common spontaneous responses were ending discrimination
in the workplace (47%), equal rights (10%), fighting against
violence against women (9%), more freedom (5%), less sexism
and more recognition on men’s part (5%).
These responses make up a specific area of concern, and
show that women pursuing their autonomy.