Brazil saw a disturbing increase in sexual violence against women and children in 2022, according to new figures which paint a worrying picture of a country that is failing to protect its young and female population, particularly in their own homes.
The data, published on Thursday by the Brazilian Public Security Forum showed that reported rapes increased 8.2% to an all-time high of 74,930 last year, while rape cases among minors grew 15.3%. Females make up 88.7% of rape victims, and a staggering 61.4% are children aged 13 or younger.
“Brazil has become more violent for children, adolescents and women in general. All the crimes that take place principally at home increased last year,” said Samira Bueno, the Forum’s executive director.
All types of violence against minors increased, including child maltreatment (up 13.8%), child and youth pornography (7%) and sexual exploitation (16.4%). “It would be hard to present a worse scenario in relation to violence against children and adolescents than that which emerged in 2022,” the report reads.
Experts believe the numbers partly reflect the effects of lockdowns and school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic, which left children more vulnerable to abuse at home and without the support network schools often provide in catching abuse early.
Violence against women also exploded in 2022, the final year of the ultra-conservative Jair Bolsonaro government that oversaw a string of setbacks to the gender rights agenda.
“[The previous government] picked the gender debate as an enemy that must be defeated,” said Bueno, adding that Bolsonaro’s misogynistic discourse trickled down into both public policy and people’s behaviour with an ultimately harmful impact on women’s lives.
Brazil’s domestic violence hotline received an average of 102 calls an hour in 2022, amid an increase in domestic attacks and threats, while femicides grew 6.1%. Nearly three-quarters of femicide victims were killed inside their own home and by their current or former partner.
Other forms of sexual violence, including stalking, assault and harassment, all registered sharp increases.
Marisa Sanematsu of the Patricia Galvão institute, a women’s rights organisation, said she believed more victims were speaking out amid a growing awareness of legal protections and increasing intolerance of behaviour such as sexual harassment, which was made a crime in 2018. “These numbers are a warning that should raise awareness in society, showing there is a problem that must be confronted,” she said.
The rise in violence against gender minorities and children contrasts with a 2.4% drop in intentional violent deaths – which include homicides, femicides and robberies leading to death – to 47,508, the lowest figure on record. However, killings committed by police officers rose to 6,430, an average of 17 murders a day.
The Amazon region stands out as suffering from high levels of violence, with the homicide rate in Amazon cities 54% higher than the national average – a reflection of Bolsonaro’s destructive policy towards the rainforest which allowed crime to run rampant, leading to the murders last year of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira.
Bolsonaro’s laissez-faire approach to the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Amazon also explains higher levels of gender violence there, said Bueno. “Other things orbit around these illegal activities … illegal mining on Indigenous territory will resolve conflicts with bullets. And what comes with illegal mining? Sexual exploitation of children, prostitution.”
The Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government has already taken steps that address the main public security challenges highlighted by the report and will announce further measures this Friday, the justice minister, Flávio Dino, said on Twitter. These include a plan to contain growing violence in the Amazon, cracking down on “irresponsible” gun ownership, measures specifically targeting racism and gender-based violence, and increased efforts from the federal police to fight internet-based crimes.
Source : The Guardian