The year has only just begun, yet 126 women have already been killed in Brazil since Jan. 1, according to public data. Now, human rights leaders are calling on the Brazilian government to do more to prevent gender-based violence and protect women and girls.
On Monday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the human rights body of the 35-member Organization of American States, released a statement calling the rate of gender-related violence in the South American country "alarming."
Across the country, four women were murdered on average every day because of their gender and 67 suffered attempts in 2019. Brazil has one of the highest rates of femicide — the killing of women simply because they are female — in Latin America. Approximately 40% of gender-based killings in the region happen within its borders.
"The murders of women are the most extreme form of violence and discrimination against them and represent a flagrant violation of their human rights," Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, IACHR Rapporteur for Brazil said in a statement.
"We see with concern the prevalence of murders of women, as well as the tragic consequences that attempted murders have for the victims and their families, as well as the profound psychological, emotional and physical effects that these aggressions entail," she said.
Many victims of femicide are killed by intimate partners and were also victims of domestic violence during their lifetimes. This alarming trend is "the result of sexist values deeply rooted in Brazilian society," according to the IACHR.
In an effort to reduce femicide rates, Brazil passed a law in 2015 making the crime punishable with tougher jail sentences of up to 30 years; however, femicide remains a major problem in the country.
Although countries in Latin America see some of the highest rates of femicide, gender-based violence is a global problem that impacts approximately 20% of women and girls around the world, according to the UN.
Women living in poverty and those who belong to racial minorities and the LGBTQ community are among the most vulnerable to femicide and other forms of gender-based violence.
The announcement of Brazil's alarming femicide rate comes just weeks after Pope Francis called the killing of women a "plague" in Latin America. At least 2,795 women were murdered because of their gender throughout the region in 2017.
Rights advocates are now calling for urgent change.
"The commission calls on the Brazilian state to implement comprehensive strategies to prevent these acts, fulfill its obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible, as well as to offer protection and comprehensive reparation to all victims," the IACHR said in a statement.
As the Brazilian government takes steps to address violence against women within its national borders, people everywhere must champion the rights of women and girls and do their part to advance gender equality.