Press Release

IACHR Expresses Deep Concern over Alarming Prevalence of Gender-based Killings of Women in Brazil

February 4, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about the alarming prevalence of gender-based murders of women in Brazil, taking into consideration that at least 126 women have been murdered in the country since the beginning of the year. 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.

According to publicly available information, 126 gender-based murders of women and 67 attempts have been reported so far in 2019. These reports refer to cases registered in 159 cities of the country, distributed in 26 states of Brazil. According to data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 40% of all murders of women in both regions occur in Brazil. According to media reports, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, an average of 300 women are murdered each year and in the state of São Paulo alone, from January to November last year, 377 women were murdered.

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. Similarly, the IACHR warns that in many of these cases the aggressors were or had been partners of the victims, that almost half of the homicides of women in Brazil are committed by firearms and that, in most cases, they occur in their own homes.

"The murders of women are the most extreme form of violence and discrimination against them and represent a flagrant violation of their human rights," said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, IACHR Rapporteur for Brazil. "We see with concern the prevalence of murders of women, as well as the tragic consequences that attempted murders have for the victims and their families, as well as the profound psychological, emotional and physical effects that these aggressions entail," added the Commissioner.

The IACHR emphasizes that the murders of women are not an isolated problem and are symptomatic of a pattern of gender violence against women that affects the entire country, the result of sexist values deeply rooted in Brazilian society. Similarly, the Commission warns of the increased risks faced by women who are particularly vulnerable because of their ethnic or racial origin, their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, their situation of mobility, those living in conditions of poverty, women journalists, women involved in politics and women human rights defenders. During the on-site visit to the country in November 2018, the IACHR particularly warned of the existence of intersections between violence, racism and machismo, reflected in the generalized increase in homicides of black women. Likewise, the Commission is concerned about the social tolerance that persists in the face of these events, as well as the impunity that continues to surround these serious cases.

"The approval of the Law typifying feminicide in Brazil represented a fundamental step to make visible the discriminatory character of the murders of women based on their gender. However, it is now essential to strengthen prevention and protection measures," said Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, President of the IACHR and Rapporteur for Women's Rights. "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. Gender-based violence against women is a matter of real gravity and the authorities, from the highest level, must attend to it with the utmost seriousness and urgency," concluded the President.

The Commission emphasizes that the impunity that characterizes gender-based killings of women conveys the message that such violence is tolerated, which favors its perpetuation. In this regard, the IACHR recalls that within the framework of its obligation to act with due diligence and by virtue of the obligations arising from the provisions of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará), in these cases, the authorities must undertake serious, impartial, effective, and timely investigations. In addition, the IACHR reiterates that in the case of the murder of a woman committed in the context of a general context of gender-based violence, States have the obligation to investigate ex officio any discriminatory connotations, whether committed in the public or private sphere.

The Commission also urges the State of Brazil to strengthen prevention and protection mechanisms to eradicate violence and discrimination against women at the national level, in a coordinated manner and with sufficient institutional and financial resources. This entails the adoption of comprehensive measures designed with a gender perspective and of an inter-sectional nature, including components aimed at eliminating discriminatory gender stereotypes. Likewise, the Commission underlines the need to strengthen training with a gender perspective for State agents or operators, whether in police, investigative or judicial instances, paying attention to women victims of attempted murders, as well as the families of murdered women, with a view to effectively identifying the discriminatory nature of these crimes, protecting victims and their families from being re-victimized, and punishing such cases with the criminal type of femicide when appropriate.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 024/19