A Woman's Life In Brazil: How We Try To Survive
Updated: Mar 9
By: Letícia Remonte
Being a woman in Brazil is no easy task. Brazil has one of the highest rates of femicide (the killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man and on account of her gender) in the world.
In 2018, a woman was beaten approximately every 7.5 seconds. 536 women were beaten every hour.
In 2019, 3,739 women were killed.
180 women (cases reported) are raped every single day. The estimate in reality is 1,443 rapes a day.
66,041 incidents of sexual violence were reported in 2018, of which 82% were against women and girls, over half are under the age of 13. What is alarming is only 10.71% of women and girls in Brazil report.
These figures are only a tenth of reality. 527,000 rapes per year occur in Brazil according to the Institute of Applied Economic Research,
Below is my story. A story of a woman trying to survive in Brazil. A story of someone who is lucky, I have only been harassed and cat-called. Nothing worse.
I wake up at 6am everyday to go to college, it’s not dark outside, the sun is already shining. Even in broad daylight, I worry about the lingering looks, the catcalls and the groping hands or worse. I don’t want to think about what worse is. It always happens no matter the time of day. In fact, women's clothing is always an issue here. It's better to be safe than sorry. Showing skin can only make it worse, after all we are asking for it. Even though it is really hot, I prefer to wear pants and avoid any revealing necklines as much as possible. It's safer this way. They look at us as if we are pieces of meat and the popular saying that "olhar não tira pedaço" (looking does no harm), is not true: they take away a piece of our freedom, and our safety.
Recently, Brazil celebrated the most popular holiday in the country, Carnival. I decided to enjoy the carnival in my city, São Paulo, like any young woman. São Paulo has one of the largest celebrations of Carnival in the country. I went downtown following a famous carnival block led by a large open truck, with a stage on the top where bands play popular songs and the revelers dance below and follow the truck as it goes along.
I dressed up in bright and flashy props, after all, once a year we risk it. We allow ourselves to dance. Since it was really hot I decided to wear a short blouse . . I left the house ready for the party and as I took my usual bus, the driver was already calling me “gatinha” (baby) with the intentions clear in his tone of voice. This was completely normal but it didn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable and for only a few seconds, I thought of running back home. I wanted to cry with shame and fear. We are always afraid. We are always alert. Every comment, every look could escalate. This is how much harassment we get everyday. Every woman experiences it. It is rooted in our country and engraved in our skin. I swallowed, pretended it wasn't me, and moved on.
These episodes are quite common here, they are standard. I've been through much more horrible situations. Every woman has. I remember a traumatic incident which happened when I was only 17, in 2016. I can still recall the scene in detail. I was in the last year of school, studying ten minutes from my home. I was walking back home around lunchtime, when the streets are the busiest and it is broad daylight. I was wearing my school uniform, which was pants and a t-shirt. It was windy, so I was even wearing a sweatshirt. I was completely covered. I was safe. Or so I thought. When I walked past a restaurant, three visibly drunk men left their lunch and ran after me, shouting "compliments" that in reality were offensive and degrading. I started running. I ran faster than I ever had, every second seemed like an eternity. I only thought of what could happen if they caught up to me. I prayed that God would protect me, even though I didn’t practice any religion. At one point, they stopped chasing after me, the alcohol had its effect and tiredness took over. I got home safely that day. I was safe that day.
But that day I finally became aware of what it was like to be a woman in Brazil.
A country that attacks women. A country that beats women. A country that rapes women. A country that kills women. A misogynist attitude so entrenched in our country and in our values we do not even notice it.
Because it is not only the abusers that are responsible. The abuser is also the system. It is the police. It is the legislative and judiciary system. It is the government.
There are huge movements here that fight for the safety of us women. Feminist demonstrations are common. I feel represented by each one and I represent them too. Union is strength, in Brazil sorority is fundamental. It's us for us, and that's it.
There is still a long way to go to be completely free and to feel totally safe. We have been fighting for too long for our basic human rights. We have strength and faith, in ourselves and in the movement. I believe that one day Brazil will be a better country in every single way and that we women can be proud of our country.
For now, we fight. Wounded and battered but stronger than ever.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.
** Cover image by Kalhh