Refinery29 has partnered with Allison Rapson and Kassidy Brown, founders of the media company We Are the XX, for a documentary series exploring the lives of women around the world. "A Woman's Place" features the empowering stories of female activists working for real change in their communities. This story draws on interviews conducted by Rapson and Brown, as well as additional reporting from Refinery29 in New York.
In Brazil, an average of 15 women per day are killed simply for being women, according to figures cited
by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Femicide, now defined under Brazilian law as a "crime that involves domestic violence, discrimination, or contempt for women, which results in their death," remains a serious problem in South America's largest country.
But before 2006, domestic violence was not even considered a criminal act in Brazil. Back then, "common punishments for domestic violence crimes included donation of food baskets to charity or payments of fines," according to a study published
in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.
That changed with the Maria da Penha Law on Domestic and Family Violence
, adopted in 2006. Da Penha was a victim of domestic violence
at the hands of her then-husband. In 1983, he brutally attacked her while she was sleeping, shooting and partially paralyzing her. When she was released from the hospital, da Penha said her husband tried to electrocute her.
Da Penha has since dedicated her life to fighting for other women like her in Brazil.
"Before the Act, domestic violence was a crime considered of low potential offensive. That reality has changed, and indeed in all the places I go to give talks, women find themselves 'saved by the Law,' but we need more financial resources to implement it in all its power," da Penha told the United Nation's Women's Organization in 2011.
"The problem is not in the law, but in its application. Unfortunately, these instruments exist only in big cities."
Nearly a decade after the Maria da Penha Law was passed, advocates say there is still more to be done to protect women. In the city of São Paulo alone, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds, according
to the United Nations Development Fund for Women.