Police stations for women target spousal abuse

December 01, 1991|By New York Times News Service

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Her right hand in a plaster cast, Josefa Gomes de Souza nervously recounted to a police chief how her husband, Adao Gomes Silva, in a rage threw her against a wall of their wooden shanty here.

In another room, Mr. Silva, a steel worker, stared sullenly at the floor and gave a differing version: "She doesn't have a scar on her body. She caught her thumb in the door."

Traditionally, wife battery rarely reaches Brazilian police stations, and more rarely, Brazilian courts.

But on a recent afternoon, Mr. Silva sat on a bench at a women's police station here, glumly facing the prospect of having to defend himself against criminal charges of assault.

The women's police stations, already 57 in Sao Paulo state, are an effort to end impunity afforded men who attack women in Latin America's most populous nation. Started in 1985, the stations are staffed by female officers and specialize in violent crimes against women.

"It is still possible in Brazil for a man to kill his allegedly unfaithful wife and be absolved on the grounds of honor," Americas Watch, a New York-based human rights group, reported recently. "Rape is seldom investigated and rarely prosecuted."

In Rio de Janeiro, of more than 2,000 battery and sexual assault cases registered at one police station, none resulted in punishment of the accused, the station chief told Americas Watch. In more than 4,000 cases reported in the city of Sao Luis, only two resulted in punishment.

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