The Anti-Rape Campaign In Brazil That Is Drawing Much Needed Attention To A Public Health Problem

This incident has shaken up the largest country in Latin America, but it speaks volume about its chronic problem of violence against women. On May 21, a 16 year old girl was allegedly raped by at least 30 people in a Rio de Janeiro Favela.

In a striking installation titled “I will not be silent” by photographer Marcio Freitas, on the popular Copacabana beach in Rio, silent voices were raised not only to stand up against rape culture, but to demonstrate the gravity of the problem in numbers. According to the non-government organization Rio de Paz, 420 pairs of red and white underpants were chosen to represent the estimated number of women assaulted every 72 hours in Brazil. This results in an estimated 50,000 rape incidents every year, the NGO’s founder, Antonio de Costa explained in an interview. “There are almost 50,000 cases a year, within the context that these are under-reported. It is suspected that this 50,000 corresponds to 10 percent of the cases which actually take place. We are here protesting, calling on the authorities to combat impunity against this criminal practice and also to implement public policies in poor Brazilian communities, where the women are most vulnerable to the violation of their rights,” he shared.

Violence against women in the form of physical and sexual abuse is not only a violation of human rights, but a public health problem that will require decision makers and stakeholders to invest more resources in evidence-based prevention and targeted responses. The incidence of sexual violence increases the risk of death or injury, depression, alcohol use problems, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and low birth weight babies. While limited research has been conducted on the prevalence of sexual violence in the Americas, available data suggests that the rates of combined intimate partner and non-partner sexual violence among all women 15 years or older is an estimated 36%. Of course this does not include unreported cases of violence.

Following this monumental protest, there are currently plans to exhibit 100 of these pictures in other cities in Brazil, to raise awareness about the issue.

Feature image: Via Rio de Paz

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