Brazil’s emergency telephone number assigned to women in crisis, known as Call 180, reported a 133 percent increase in calls related to domestic violence during the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2015.
Research tends to correlate spikes in domestic violence with unemployment and overall economic stress, and while Brazil is experiencing its worst economic contraction in nearly a generation, officials with the Special Secretariat of Policies for Women, a branch of the Ministry of Justice and Citizenship, said that the new data reflects a growing demand for the use of Brazil’s intervention hotline.
"We had an increase in the demand of (Call 180), which means that women are more empowered and encouraged to utilize this service,” Secretarie to the Policies for Women Fátima Pelaes told Brazilian media outlet EBC.
Pelaes went on to point out that the latest data does not necessarily indicate increased levels of violence against women but instead reflect greater levels of empowerment.
"The data does not mean that there are an increasing number of rapes, or women being beaten. Instead it may mean that women feel much more encouraged to reach out to Call 180.” Pelaes said.
According to the new study released by the Brazilian government, Black women – who suffer from both racial and gender discrimination – are also more likely to be victims of violence in the country, accounting for 59.7 percent of the reported cases.
"The figures show that black women are suffering more violence and we need to put an end to this,” Fatima Pelaes added.
The findings take place as Brazil celebrated the 10-year anniversary last Sunday marking the passage of one of the first laws in South America to address gender violence.
The Brazilian government took an important step last years to combat femicide by signing into law a measure that increases the penalty for such crimes. The new legislation alters the criminal code to describe femicide as any crime that involves domestic violence, contempt or discrimination against women. It also defines such acts as “aggravated murder,” which increases the penalties to 12 to 30 years.
According to a 2015 publication carried out by the Latin American Social Sciences Institute, or FLACSO, in coordination with U.N. Women and the World Health Organization, or WHO, an average of 13 women were killed per day in 2013, making Brazil the fifth highest country among the 83 nations for which statistics are available through the World Health Organization.