TW: Rape, domestic violence

The most recent edition of the Brazilian Institute on Applied Economic Research's Social Perception Indicators Report (sorry, no English version to date)revealed disturbing evidence on the Brazilian perceptions of violence against women as well as gender roles in and outside the home.

On domesticity and gender roles, roughly 64% of respondents either partially or totally agreed that men should head their households. A whopping 79% of those surveyed believed that all women dream of getting married, while 60% agreed that a women only feels accomplished when she has children. Concerning domestic violence, nearly 63% of people surveyed agreed that domestic violence must only be discussed among family members. Regarding the public role of women in Brazilian society, 65% of respondents agreed partially or completely that women who wear revealing clothing deserve to be assaulted. In addition, over 58% reported that if women knew how to behave better, there would be less rape.

Not all the responses were disappointing. Roughly 65% of respondents did not agree that women should always satisfy their husbands in bed, even when they do not want to. Also, nearly 75% of respondents reported that the issue of violence against women receives too much social and media attention. Over 91% of respondents said that men who beat their wives must go to jail. On top of that, almost 75% did not believe that violence is natural to men.

Despite great strides of the strict legislation passed 7 years ago (Lei Maria da Penha), which extends punishment for domestic aggressors both in the act of violence and preventively, the authors conclude that education is also necessary to change public perception. Their main results indicate that while men are still accepted as dominant by Brazilian society, physical violence by men is no longer tolerated. In addition, despite beliefs that marital disagreements should be settled privately, the majority agree that domestic violence should be sent to prison. However, regarding sexual assault, most people still consider women responsible for being assaulted.

The fact that people in any country have these types of opinions does not surprise me, but I was so shocked at how high some of the survey results were. Even when they included over 3,000 individuals in their research! I've written about my own perceptions of sexism in Brazil during my most recent visit, and it was pretty sad to see my observations basically confirmed. However, the authors observed that positive changes have taken place in less than 10 years since new legislation, including public education campaigns (see below), so I am (tentatively) hopeful.