Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

In public hearing, racism in Brazil shocks rapporteur of Organization of American States on the rights of women and African descendants


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Margarette Macaulay speaks during hearing in São Paulo, having in front of her a banner showing images of the dead from Crimes de Maio (Crimes of May) (Photo: Luciana Araújo)

Note from BW of Brazil: Perhaps the experiences of black Brazilians are shocking to those who aren’t familiar with the racial dynamic in Brazilian society, but for anyone who has been exposed to this sort of news (from reading blogs such as this one), racism in Brazil can no longer be considered shocking; not after everything we’ve seen just on this single blog over the past nearly five years. I mean, we’ve seen a man get wrestled to the ground because it was assumed he was stealing his own car. We’ve seen a woman get shot and killed by police, tossed in the back of a truck like a piece of luggage and having her dead body dragged on the concrete fir several yards. We’ve seen police openly harass Afro-Brazilians for their presence on beaches or in shopping malls, we’ve seen violent repression of Afro-Brazilian religious practices and the genocidal murders of black youth. We would advise that in the future the representative of the OAS in today’s story to follow this blog to understand how deep the problem is in Brazil. But since she did get a taste of how racism works in Brazil, what’s she gonna do it about it????

Racism in Brazil shocks rapporteur of Organization of American States on the rights of women and African descendants

Responsible for monitoring compliance with international laws and treaties governing the rights of women and blacks in the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Jamaican Margarette Macaulay came to question whether Brazil would effectively be a democracy in the face of the level of violations committed against nationals or permitted by Brazilian institutions by omission, and which were reported to her in front of a public audience.

By Luciana Araújo

The official mission of the Commissioner of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) on the Rights of Women and People of African Descent, Margarette May Macaulay was closed last September 30th. The rapporteur has worked with human rights since 1966 and has been a judge of the IACHR, an international court that makes up the inter-American system of justice before assuming her current position of rapporteur. Still, at the public hearing organized by Geledés – Black Women’s Institute in São Paulo, the rapporteur was teary-eyed at least three times during the two and a half hours of reports, in which twelve women told their multiple experiences of institutional violence and violations of rights.

They were mostly victims of the state whose lives have been marked by institutional racism that took away their children, killed by Military Police. But there were also women who have broken the cycle of domestic violence, women on the streets, victims of sexual violence, lesbians and trans who daily face the intersection of race discrimination, gender and social class.

Geledés – Institute of Black Women, Criola and Articulação de Organizações de Mulheres Negras Brasileiras (AMNB or Articulation of Organizations of Black Brazilian Women) conducted a round of public hearings with the rapporteur of the OAS to present the data of the Dossier A Situação dos Direitos Humanos das Mulheres Negras no Brasil: Violências e violações (The Situation of Human Rights of Black Women in Brazil: Violence and violations), released in August. The action took place in partnership with the Instituto de Raça, Igualdade e Direitos Humanos (Institute of Race, Equality and Human Rights).

“The most important thing was that she could visualize the people behind the numbers presented in the dossier. This violence that has color, class, people, pain, broken dreams,” Nilza Iraci, coordinator of Geledés and AMNB highlighted.

The strategy worked: the rapporteur Margarette Macaulay said it was “very important to look in their eyes, because it gives more power to the data and reports we receive.” The dossier had been presented at the OAS in August.

Heteronormative hate

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Roseli Barbosa dos Reis

Lesbian, black and poor, Luana Barbosa dos Reis was beaten by Military Police (MP) in front of her 14 year old son until suffering multiple head traumas, fractures in the legs and arms and losing her sight. Luana died after five days in a coma. “They also forced the head of my nephew against the glass of the car to make him see his mother being beaten there,” reported Roseli reporting the violence committed by police against her sister.

Luana’s homes – where her mother, sister and son – and her girlfriend lived were also raided without a warrant by police who claimed to be searching for evidence of involvement in drug trafficking. The young woman was left only in underwear and a top during the time she remained in the police station, and was even accused of “assaulting” and “defying” the police who approached her for refusing to be searched by men. “If she had survived, they would have to respond. They forced her to sign the comprehensive term, although it appears she refused there,” protested Roseli.

Even before this background, judge Luiz Augusto Freire Teotônio, of the 1st Jury Court of Ribeirão Preto denied the request for temporary detention of the authors on the grounds that there would have been deceit. The case was referred to the Military Justice system.

Luana’s murder is contained in the Dossier given to the rapporteur of the OAS, where there is a chapter on violations and violence promoted by hetero-normative hatred. “The images that we reveal in the dossier are very strong, show that for the authors just hate speech isn’t enough, it’s necessary to mutilate the victims,” said Nilza Iraci.

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Neon moves a lawsuit against the Brazilian State for the right to social name without submitting to the current process, which requires self-declaration of mental disorder of trans people.

In her testimony, the transsexual Neon Cunha epitomized what verified cruelty in crimes against transsexuals and transvestites reveals about Brazilian society. “We are a country that needed in 2015 to pass a law of femicide. This is a misogynist country, that hates women, hates black women, and hates on top of the black woman, the trans woman. My biggest crime today is that I dared to be a woman,” Cunha denounced.

Neon recalled that in 1987 the Municipality of São Paulo promoted with the Civil Police operação Tarântula (operation tarantula) to “clean the streets” of transvestites and transsexuals. The story of operação Tarântula is told in the award-winning documentary Temporada de Caça (Hunting Season), produced in 1988 by Rita Moreira.

“It was the extermination of the population of trans women, transvestites and transsexuals and gay men.” She pointed out that today, although unofficially, crimes committed by state agents against the LGBT population are still going on, as evidenced by the attacks on Veronica Bolina when she was in prison custody. At the hearing, Neon warned that the failure of institutions encourages individual violence against transsexuals and transvestites.

Although the country has no official monitoring system of violent deaths related to lesbophobia, homophobia and transphobia, studies by the NGO Transgender Europe, from material published by news outlets, places Brazil as the country that most kills the trans population. Since 2008 to April 30th of this year 845 trans people were killed across the country (42% of the cases worldwide).

Invisible among the invisible

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Mara Sobral dos Santos (president of the Cooperativa de Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis da Granja Julieta).

Representing another social segment of black women to denounce their social invisibility, Mara Sobral dos Santos highlighted the lack of preparation of state agents to deal with violations that people living on the streets suffer.

“I am part of a collective of women street dwellers. We don’t have statistics, we don’t have B.O. (police reports), we don’t have records. We don’t exist. No one will listen to a homeless woman say that she was raped on ajob by eight men. No one listens to a homeless person really because they don’t consider us women. I am a black woman and lesbian and suffer violence every day. I wake up at three in the morning and get on my truck to work, but I can’t use a toilet on the street because it’s always ‘broken’. I can’t eat at a restaurant because I’m always dirty on my job. And I have no right to change my  absorbent, I have to climb onto the truck to change because there is no public toilet for the homeless,” she denounced.

Black women and the genocide of youth

Surviving victims of slaughters promoted by off-duty police or in official actions, six women reported the horror of living in peripheral areas where the racial condition is translated by the state as synonymous with suspicion and guilt. One was Rosana Souza, the young mother of Douglas Rodrigues, who was killed in November 2013 in Vila Medeiros by a MP and with his last words her asked: “Por que o senhor atirou em mim?” (Why did you shoot me?).

Also present were women who are part of the Movimento Mães de Maio (Mothers of May Movement) and others whose names are not mentioned to preserve their security and that gave their reports while tearfully suffering.

“They not only killed the boys, children, youth, poor favelados (favela inhabitants) and peripherals. They also killed mothers. We are the living dead,” said one.

“We have to ask for help outside of Brazil, because in Brazil they don’t do justice, especially for blacks. We are being hunted. Especially in the state of São Paulo. We can’t take it anymore. We have to bring people from outside to see our reality. The funeral march that continues in our country is concealed by the media, by our councilors and MPs. Brazil is a genocidal country, but we won’t be silent while we have no respect,” said Débora Maria da Silva, coordinator of movimento Mães de Maio, demanding punishment for those responsible for the deaths of more than 600 young people, mostly black, by military police between May 12th and 19th, 2006, in São Paulo. Last year, the so-called crimes de maio (crimes of May) were reported to the OAS.

A mistrial of the 74 MPs involved in the Carandiru Massacre – when 111 prisoners were brutally killed during a prison raid of the same name by shock police after a rebellion against the inhumane conditions to which detainees were subjected, on October 2nd, 1992 – was also remembered during the hearing as a further violation of rights fraught with racism on the black and poor population and black women. Mothers, partners, sisters and other relatives of the men executed mostly with more than five shots in the neck and head until today hope that those responsible will be punished. The daughter of one of the victims came on Monday (3rd) with a lawsuit against the State of São Paulo because of the statements of Judge Ivan Sartori, administrator of the case, that it would have been “self-defense” as reported in the Agência Ponte Jornalismo.

Do we live in a democracy?

“What’s happening in this country? Is it still a democracy? For me, it is clearly not if the police act with such cruel impunity, knowing that it has state protection! And any government that allows this is not a democratic government!” declared Margarette Macaulay, for the first time interrupting the session to say that it’s necessary to end such impunity.

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Nilza Iraci speak at the hearing, the rapporteur Margarette Macaulay at center and Maria Lúcia Silva, psychologist (Photo: Luciana Araújo).

On the case of femicide committed by Military Police against Luana Barbosa dos Reis, the OAS representative pointed out that the reaction of the young woman to the police search was “completely legal. She had the right to do so. And the judges still said that there was no intent to kill? What kind of judges are these?” she asked irritably.

Institutional racism and the Maria da Penha Law

In relation to cases of domestic violence presented, Margarette Macaulay emphasized that they are the product of a social logic that educates men to think “they have the physical and sexual possession of women.” Institutional racism in the implementation of Law 11.340/2006 was also perceived by Macaulay in the accounts heard in hearings held in Salvador and in Rio de Janeiro in the same week, which made the rapporteur argue that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights should question the Brazilian State about compliance of laws and treaties, as well as the “discriminatory form” that the Maria da Penha LawMaria da Penha Law has been applied to black women.

Source: Agência Patrícia Galvão

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