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Maria da Penha Law: an important ally in the fight against gender violence

In a society marked by machismo and misogyny, laws that protect and defend women are achievements and must gain visibility. Despite having heard about it, a large part of the population is unaware of the implications and frameworks of Law 11.340/06, better known as the Maria da Penha Law. To understand one of the most important legal tools of the feminist struggle, check out what lawyer Maria Gabriela Brandino says.

What is the Maria da Penha Law?

Enacted on August 7, 2006, by then President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, Law 11,340, also known as Maria da Penha, “is a mechanism to curb and prevent domestic and family violence against women,” Brandino said.

The lawyer emphasizes that “it is necessary to move away from biological and binary logic to welcome and apply the law for all women”. That is, considering cisgender, transvestite and transsexual women properly as equals.

In the law, “domestic and family violence against women is defined as any action or omission based on gender that causes death, injury, physical, sexual or psychological suffering and moral or property damage”, as provided in Art. 5th.

when was created

As described above, the law was enacted in mid-2006, however, the painful trajectory of its creation unfolded over 23 years. It all started when the biochemical pharmacist Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes was the victim of two attempts at femicide committed by her spouse at the time, Marco Antonio Heredia Viveros, in 1983. One of the attacks caused irreversible damage to the spine of Maria da Penha, who became paraplegic, as stated in his biography on the Instituto Maria da Penha website.

Marco Antonio’s first trial took place 8 years after the crimes, but the defendant was released. A second trial took place in 1996, and the sentence was again not carried out. Two years later, the development of the case gained international proportions.

However, it was only in 2001 that the Brazilian State became aware of the need for discussions and effective draft laws to punish and combat violence against women, resulting in the sanction of the national law in question.

Whats the matter

Brandino quotes the song ‘Maria da Vila Matilde’, performed by Elza Soares, which demonstrates the power of the Maria da Penha law. For the professional, this law “institutes a mechanism of protection and action, understanding violence against women as structural”.

In addition, Brandino adds that the existence of this law “is extremely important for engagement, collective awareness and prevention of violence against women”, that is, it elucidates the cases of physical and verbal aggression that women across the country experience, whether they come from their spouses, family members, acquaintances or strangers.

“The Maria da Penha Law is fundamental to the understanding, implementation and execution of comprehensive care for women and for intersectoral policies”, points out the specialist.

What are the main points of the Maria da Penha Law?

According to data from the Brazilian Public Security Yearbook for the year 2021, there were approximately 1,341 deaths from femicide, 2,028 attempted femicide and 230,861 complaints of domestic violence. It is impossible to turn a blind eye to the condition of women in a patriarchal society! Therefore, see below the main points of the Maria da Penha Law.

Prevention of violence against women

As already pointed out by the lawyer, the Maria da Penha Law was created with the aim of curbing and preventing violence against women. Therefore, one of its main points is the creation of methods to prevent criminal acts.

No Art. 2, it is stated that all women have the fundamental rights of human life, being, in this way, “the opportunities and facilities to live without violence, to preserve their physical and mental health and their moral, intellectual and social improvement”.

Art. 3 points out that every woman has the right “to life, safety, health, food, education, culture, housing, access to justice, sport, leisure, work, citizenship, freedom, dignity, respect and family and community life”.

The other points on prevention show the importance of developing public policies to combat violence, in addition to promoting research and studies, social education and the preparation of professionals who welcome victims, ethical and social discussion and the promotion of educational campaigns, aiming at equality of gender, race or ethnicity, as provided in the universal declaration of human rights.

Protection for all women

In factual cases of violence or threat, protective measures are taken, “considering that the nature of the legislation is to promote protection and curb domestic and family violence”, explains the lawyer.

Sections II and III, referring to protective measures, include the restriction or suspension of the aggressor’s carrying weapons; the removal of the home or place of coexistence; imposition of distance limits from the victim, family members or witnesses; suspension or restriction of minor dependents; restitution of goods etc.

It is worth remembering that domestic and family violence is characterized in different ways, from conduct that offends the physical integrity of women to psychological violence, sexual violence, property violence and moral violence. “Each of the violence described and typified has in itself a range of ramifications and complexity that adapts and infiltrates social structures”, points out the expert.

According to the lawyer, when there is non-compliance with the court decision by the aggressor, there may be detention for a certain period, as stated in Art. 24, which will be mentioned later.

Assistance to victims

As well as protective measures, assistance to victims of domestic and family violence is important and, therefore, is highlighted in Chapter II of the decree of the Maria da Penha Law.

Among the articles and paragraphs provided, the law ensures that the victim must have their physical and psychological integrity preserved, with access to health, security and legal assistance systems in the necessary cases.

The next chapter, which deals with assistance by the police authority, also provides details on reception and assistance, noting that the victim is attended in person by a female professional, the investigation does not revictimize the deponent, there is a guarantee of her protection, etc.

The specialist highlights that it is extremely important for society to understand that “there is no scenario in which the victim participates or contributes to the result”. When talking about her vulnerabilities and sufferings, she must receive social and professional support.

What is included in the Maria da Penha Law?

According to the lawyer, “following art. 7 of the aforementioned law, we understand it as an explicit guarantee against physical, psychological, sexual, property and moral violence”. See below:

  • Physical violence: any conduct that affects the physical integrity of the woman.
  • Psychological violence: any conduct that results in emotional damage and compromises the woman’s mental health.
  • Sexual Violence: Any conduct that constrains, compels, intimidates, threatens, blackmails or forces a sexual relationship, induces the commercialization of sexuality, prevents the use of contraceptive methods and/or limits or nullifies a woman’s sexual and reproductive rights.
  • Property violence: any conduct that withholds, subtracts or destroys, in whole or in part, a woman’s assets and/or financial resources.
  • Moral violence: any conduct that constitutes an insult, slander and/or defamation of a woman.

Brandino reinforces that “transsexual and transvestite women are women and, therefore, there is nothing to discuss about the legitimacy of applying the Maria da Penha Law for them”, that is, they are entitled to the guarantees of the law.

What are the penalties of the Maria da Penha Law?

The penalties of the law discussed permeate several factors between urgent protective measures applied by a judge and even detention. Below they are detailed. Check out:

Suspension or restriction of carrying weapons

Aiming at the physical integrity and protection of the victim’s life, in case the aggressor has authorization to carry weapons, it will be suspended or restricted, and the decision will be communicated to the competent body following the guidelines of law 10.826/03.

removal from home

To protect the victim of domestic and family violence, the judge may apply the protective measure of “removal from the home, domicile or place of coexistence with the victim”, as provided in the decree.

Prohibition of certain conducts

In relation to the conduct of the aggressor, the judge in charge may prohibit him from approaching the victim, his family members and the witnesses involved in the case. Thus, it is possible to apply a physical distancing order, prohibit any form of contact and/or communication with the victim, family members and witnesses, among other actions to maintain the psychological and physical integrity of the woman.

Restriction or suspension of visits to dependents

In the case of underage dependents, as a result of the relationship with the victim, the aggressor may be prevented from carrying out visits for a time determined by the responsible judge for the sake of the victim’s and dependent’s integrity.

Participation in re-education and psychosocial monitoring programs

This is an urgent protective measure referring to the aggressor’s obligations under the legal decision. It concerns an adjustment to art. 22, made in 2020, which aims to re-educate the individual and their social and emotional readjustment. He needs to attend recovery and re-education programs and carry out individual or group psychotherapeutic follow-up.

Detention from 3 months to 2 years

As stated above, in the event of non-compliance with the court decision, whatever it may be, there will be a penalty of detention that can range from 3 months to 2 years, as provided for in Law 13,641 of 2018. However, it is extremely important to note that paragraph 3 of this file states that “the provisions of this article do not exclude the application of other applicable sanctions”, according to the Brazilian Penal Code.

Explanatory videos about the Maria da Penha Law

Do you want to know more about legal support, the reception of victims and the framing of the law? Below, check out a selection of videos with clarifications and details about the Maria da Penha Law and its implications.

What are the procedures for reporting domestic violence?

In this video, lawyer Ana Paula clarifies the legal procedures from the complaint at the police station to subpoenas, depositions, requests for evidence in certain cases, in addition to talking about the reception of the victim by the public security authorities. The material is very informative and worth checking out!

Main points of the Maria da Penha Law

Lawyer and professor Camila Miranda talks about the most important aspects of Law 11.340/06, commenting on the rights of women and…

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