Brazilian pharmacist María da Penha Fernandes was shot by her husband. He left her a paraplegic, and tried to electrocute her. In spite of the abundance of evidence, the Brazilian justice system took nearly two decades to come to a firm decision.
The aggressions against Mrs. Fernandes and her difficulty in finding justice was evidence of the tolerance for violence in Brazil, which Mrs. Fernandes and thousands of women suffer from in similar ways on a daily basis. She, CEJIL, and the Latin American Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM) denounced the Brazilian government before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 1998.
Mrs. Fernandes’ persistence in her fight culminated in an IACHR decision that placed responsibility for the violation of her human rights on the Brazilian government, applied for the first time by the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Sanction and Eradicate Violence Against Women – known a the Belém do Pará Convention. It also initiated the process that resulted in the first law against domestic violence against women in Brazil.
On May 29, 1983, Mrs. Fernandes’ husband shot her with a revolver while she was sleeping and left her a paraplegic. In 1984, the Prosecutor’s Office accused the man of aggression and the intention to kill, and initiated a long judicial journey, which demonstrated the government’s tolerance of violence against women and lead to the international hearing before the IACHR.
In 2001, the IACHR decided in favor of Mrs. Fernandes and a year later the Brazilian courts declared her ex-husband guilty, finally sending him to prison in 2002 – 19 years after the crime was committed and just six months before the charges against him would have been dropped.
The IACHRdetermined that Brazil had violated the Belém do Pará Convention and exhorted the government to adopt measures that guarantee the effective punishment, prevention and eradication of violence against women.
Mrs. Fernandes’ search for justice contributed in a fundamental way to the promulgation of the law 11.340 in 2006, which intends to prevent the evasion penal sanctions for acts of domestic violence against women, promotes rehabilitation programs for the aggressors, and creates political bodies and specialized courts: it’s the “María da Penha Law.”
Maria da Penha - Campaign: "Defend the IAS Now", produced by Canal Capital and CEJIL