You can now follow people on Instagram from your computer! No need to buy an expensive iPhone, just log on right here. And just in case you’re interested, I’m a pretty avid user. And I put up pretty photos.
Brazil is often touted as the land of three races, an exotic mix of Africans brought over through the slave trade, European colonizers and indigenous tribes, all come together to form a “racial rainbow.” We see this in ads for Brazilian tourism, where a colorful array of people flash across the screen, smiling and happy. However, even as Brazil brags about its diversity, one of those three groups seems to be left out of most conversations: indigenous people. And since we third-wave feminists and studiers of Latin America are so passionate about intersectionality, let’s get even more specific: indigenous women. If Brazilian women in general suffer from discrimination and inequity, what are the experiences of indigenous women, who in general have even fewer resources and more limited access to the average Brazilian woman.
MayRoses notes in her post that if indigenous people are one of the most disadvantaged ethnic groups in Brazil, indigenous women bear the brunt of these disadvantages. Many would argue that a major problem that tribes deal with today is land access due to the economic expansion of Brazil. As more and more people are forced off of their land and “lose access to environmental resources that guarantee their security and food sovereignty,” women “are most penalized, because they are generally responsible for feeding their families” (MayaRose). Lack of food and land security often leads to drug and alcohol abuse, particularly among men, which can contribute to levels of domestic violence.
Intimate partner violence appears to be an important issue for indigenous women, who have a 1 in 3 chance of being raped within their lifetimes. But what kind of protections are available to them?
Which brings me to the Maria da Penha Law, a major step towards combatting domestic violence in Brazil. The law was named for Maria da Penha Maia, a bio-farmacist who fought for 20 years to see her ex-husband and abuser (who, in addition to extensive abuse, tried to kill her twice, leaving her parapalegic) condemned. Her case reached the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights of American States, and she finally won, bringing about the law in her name. Before this, domestic violence was treated more like a domestic dispute, and payed off through fines. Abusers faced little retribution.
The new law called for the following set of actions in response to domestic violence:
- removal of the abuser from the home, and protection of the children
- the abused woman now had the right to recover her goods
- should the woman want to take back her accusation, she would have to do so in front of a judge, helping to prevent the common practice of threatening a woman back into silence
- the law now specified the forms of violence that exist
This law has been lauded as an important move for women, but it has also been heavily criticized as ethnocentric, and not taking into account the diversity of experiences and lifestyles of Brazilian women. How do we apply a law like this and keep in mind the indigenous right to self-determination? How do we reconcile internal law (indigenous practices) with external law (the Brazilian state)?
And how can indigenous people even access the resources mobilized by the law when they don’t have geographic access to a police station? Oftentimes, tribes located hours away (by car, if you can get a hold of one) from any city where they could report abuse. Also important for consideration is that in indigenous tribes, domestic unity is not limited to the sharing of living space. Other members of the community are implicated when an abuser is removed from the tribe, as they lose an able-bodied member who can help collecting and cultivating food.
At best, this is a complex issue, one for which I have no clear answer. In the article “Mulheres Indígenas, Direitos e Políticas Públicas” (Indigenous Women, Rights and Public Politics), the authors argue that in order to provide combat domestic violence in indigenous communities, there must be a balance between internal law (indigenous law) and external law (state law). Indigenous’ right to self-determination must be respected to an extent, with the resources of the Brazilian state available to those who seek them out. I would agree with this argument with one exception: how available are the resources when women are so geographically isolated? How can we bring state resources to tribes without imposing state laws?
What do you think?
I need to ask you a favor. It’s small, and won’t take long.
Please make sure your vote counts today.
I don’t just mean go out the polls and cast your ballot. I mean if you’re using a machine, check on the paper print out that it voted right for you. I mean while you’re waiting in line, keep up the energy of the people around you. I mean drive your elderly neighbor out the poll because your vote doesn’t count if other people can’t vote with you. Tell your friends. Call your mom. GET. OUT. THE. VOTE.
Vote for all those immigrants our nation is built upon, those people who can’t vote. Vote for the people living in Puerto Rico, able to be drafted, but unable to vote. Vote for the uninsured, sick in a hospital, more concerned about their bills than their health. Vote for college students who are graduating into a poor job market and thousands of dollars in debt. If you live in California, vote for the incarcerated (YES on 34!), our right to know what’s in our food (YES on 37), for schools (YES on 30, NO on 38), against the criminalization of sex workers (NO on 35).
And please. Vote for women. Vote for women because we only get the proportional one vote each, yet we are DISproportionately affected by this election. Vote because the next president will choose the next Supreme Court Justice, and Roe v. Wade is hanging on one vote. Vote because one of our presidents has promised to defund Planned Parenthood, a major source of health care (both reproductive and primary) to millions of people in the United States. Vote because whether you are male or female, this affects you. I don’t care if you have a uterus or not, this matters.
I am begging you. Please vote today. If only because you are too embarrassed to say that you didn’t participate in one of the most important elections of our time.
Because if I were you, I would be.
I am digging this music. So much. Pretty soon I think my roomates are going to ask me to stop leaving it on repeat. But not yet!
Las Cafeteras is a mixed and colorful group of musicians from East LA. The band bases its style on Son Jarocho music, Mexican folkloric music with primarily indigenous–though also African and Spanish–musical elements. The band strives to “utilize teachings of Son Jarocho as a tool to build autonomy, community and solidarity while sharing the magic of this folk music from Southern Veracruz with the public.”
“By telling our stories of life in the concrete jungle, Las Cafeteras strives to make this ancient music relevant to everyday people in everyday places.”
Did I mention that they have a new album out? And that they have 3 songs that you can download for free on their website?
For starters, why don’t you check out the latest music video, their version of the famous song “La Bamba,” entitled “La Bamba Rebelde” (the Rebel Bamba). This song is about solidarity, singing the stories of Chican@s, Latin@s and people of color. Enjoy.
Ramiro Gomez is a male nanny working in Los Angeles. He’s also an artist. He works closely with the nannies and domestic workers of Los Angeles, which gives him a unique incite into the ways in which domestic workers are so often rendered invisible. In a truly unique way, Gomez has begun an art project to make visible these people who maintain the pristine and comfortable lifestyle of the residents of Beverly Hills. He paints cardboard cut-outs of gardeners, cleaners, and nannies, and places them in places where you might just as easily see a real gardener, cleaner or nanny. And for some reason, the cardboard draws our attention more than the human. Curious, right?
During the year I spent in Brazil, one piece of legislation that I heard a lot about within feminist discussions was the Maria da Penha Law. Even though it was put into place in 2006, the law was such a major step forward for Brazilian women that people continue to speak of it as if it represented a particularly progressive concept: the idea that women have the right to physical and emotional safety from their partners.
I recently ran into a UN piece about the success of the law since its enactment. Firstly, it does a good job of describing exactly how the law came about:
“In May 1983, biopharmaceutist Maria da Penha Fernandes was fast asleep when her husband shot her, leaving her a paraplegic for life. Two weeks after her return from the hospital, he tried to electrocute her. The case da Penha filed languished in court for two decades, while Maria’s husband remained free. Years later, in a landmark ruling, the Court of Human Rights criticized the Brazilian government for not taking effective measures to prosecute and convict perpetrators of domestic violence. In response to this, the Brazilian government in 2006 enacted a law under the symbolic name “Maria da Penha Law on Domestic and Family Violence. The Maria da Penha Act establishes special courts and stricter sentences for offenders, but also other instruments for the prevention and relief in cities of more than 60,000 inhabitants, such as police stations and shelters for women.”
It goes on to detail how the law has been successful in causing “more than 331,000 prosecutions and 110,000 final judgments, and nearly two million calls to the Service Center for Women.” It has raised the severity of the crime of domestic violence, though the application of the law is still challenging. As in the States, getting women to report their abuse, or even recognize it as abuse is complex. But this is certainly a step forward.
These two videos were included with the article. My favorite is the first, which has various Brazilian men (some famous including dancer Carlinhos de Jesus) denouncing violence against women.
I can’t stop. These are just making my day.