Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called for “zero tolerance” to violence against women on Friday after a study revealed that some 65% of Brazilians believe women “deserve to be [sexually] attacked” if they dress in a revealing way.
Rousseff made the comments after a study by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) was released on Thursday.
In the study survey carried out in mid-2013, 3,810 people – two-thirds of whom women – were asked their opinion on a number of statements concerning harassment and violence against women.
To the statement “Women who used clothes that show off their body deserve to be attacked”, some 65.1% responded that they agreed totally or in part.
Some 58.5% also said they were in complete or partial agreement with the statement “If women knew how to behave, there would be fewer rapes”.
President Rousseff took to Twitter on Friday to say that Brazil as a society had “a long way to go on combatting violence against women”:
“The result clearly shows the burden of the laws and public policy in fighting violence against women. It also shows the government and society must work together to face down violence against women, both in and outside our homes.”
Ending a sequence of messages on her official Twitter account, the president called for “zero tolerance” towards the violence.
UPDATE: On the same day as President Rousseff’s comments, news of an online anti-rape protest hit Facebook and spread like wild fire, with the hashtag #nãomereçoserestuprada – or “I don’t deserve to be raped” and thousands of people showing their solidarity.
The study produced a complex and contradictory picture of attitudes in Brazil towards violence against women: over four-fifths of respondents agreed to some extent that “what happened between a couple in their home should not concern others”.
However, more than nine-in-ten believed that a man who beats his spouse should go to prison.
527,000 sexual assaults a year
The IPEA study concluded that Brazilian society still accepts a status quo where men rule over women but not if it extends to physical violence.
But with regard to sexual violence, most people still consider women to be responsible for such behavior if they wear provocative clothing or behave inappropriately, the study found.
A second IPEA study estimated that Brazil sees around 527,000 sexual assaults or rapes annually, but that only 10% of these cases are reported to police.
Carmita Abdo, coordinator of the Sexuality Studies program at the University of São Paulo (USP), said she was not surprised by the results, which show society still blames the victim for such cases of abuse.
“What leads to sexual harassment or rape is not the clothes that women wear but people who want to harass or rape,” she told Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.
Protests denouncing violence against women have been slowly garnering support in Brazil over the past decade, featuring in and amongst the array of grievances voiced by anti-government and anti-World Cup protests seen in the country since last June.
The global SlutWalk movement, which condemns those who believe a woman is at fault for rape because of the way she chooses to dress, has also had a presence in Brazil since 2011.
Extended version of report written for Anadolu Agency