Uneven justice and protection for women in Brazil’s young democracy.

Brazil’s transition from a military dictatorship to democracy in the 1980s facilitated public discussion of gender inequality. Feminist campaigns led to a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal protection for all family members and committing the government to reducing domestic violence. The landmark Maria da Penha Law on Domestic and Family Violence of 2006 affirmed that domestic abuse is a violation of human rights and increased penalties for perpetrators. In 2015, Brazil ratified a law criminalizing femicide.

These reforms are reflected in Brazil’s relatively good legal discrimination score, which is almost one-third above the global average.

However, the gap between Brazil’s rank on legal discrimination (58) and its overall rank on the WPS Index (98) suggests that while legal protection is an important part of the gender equality architecture, a broader set of factors shape women’s well-being. Nearly three-quarters of Brazilian women report feeling unsafe when walking alone at night. Estimates indicate that only a quarter of domestic violence survivors reach out to authorities—given under-staffed and undertrained police who reportedly often dismiss such cases or require women to recount their stories in open reception areas with no privacy.

Source: Mahnaz Afkhami, Women’s Learning Partnership, drawing on Afkhami, Ertürk, and Mayer (2019).