At InternetLab, we have been developing research on online violence against women in Brazil for the past 2,5 years. The majority of our efforts have been directed towards reading judicial decisions to find out which legal framework has been applied to the problem of non-consensual dissemination of intimate images (NCII, or “revenge porn”), and, to be able to assess the major challenge, that is, who has not been able to mobilize the judicial system and how the problem affects their lives, we have been going to field to develop case studies, in particular in the peripheries of the city of São Paulo – the largest city in the world, and comprising huge inequalities [see one paper we published in English, containing a few results from a case study in the neighbourhoods of Grajaú and Parelheiros, São Paulo peripheral zone] .
The size of the problem is not to be underestimated. The Brazilian NGO Safernet reports that, in 2015, the main violation of rights on the Internet forwarded to them was sexting, or revenge porn (unconsented exposure of intimate images): a little over 300 complaints. Also, a recent study revealed that one in ten women with less than 30 years in the US has suffered threats in this sense. The problem is clearly a gender-based one, as it overwhelmingly affects women and girls (our research on the topic [link – book, in Portuguese] shows that, in more than 90% of the cases taken to justice in the state of São Paulo, the victims are women). This happens because at its core there are two assumptions: that the exercise of sexuality by women is still seen as something shameful, and that men can “avenge” themselves when their expectations — of different orders — are frustrated, within a relationship or not.
We have found that there are important challenges for the enforcement of the existing legislation that can tackle the issue in Brazil: the Maria da Penha Law (a statute for protecting women against domestic violence, generally considered one of the most advanced piece of legislation in the world on the issue), the Child and Adolescent Statute, and defamation crimes. Our fieldwork draws us to the conclusion that the existing framework is in many ways ineffective, but particularly when class and race issues are brought to the playing field, that is, the judicial system can be less mobilized by certain populations, due to internal workings of the applicable law that we will further explore in the presentation.
As regards to this diagnosis, different stakeholders have aimed to influence the Legislative Branch to approve a law that provisioned the criminalization of this conduct. Among the arguments, the need to face the problem as something serious that deserves to be rigorously punished.
Weeks ago, after several comings and goings in the Chamber of Deputies, the 5555/2013 draft bill was approved, which provisions the creation of a specific criminal type in the scope of crimes against the honor and inclusion of the conduct on the Maria da Penha Law. The draft bill, that still needs to be voted in the Senate, should be internally criticized, as we recently argued in an opinion piece for the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper [Portuguese].
Working the problem within the framework of intersectionality, that is, in our case, considering class and race variables, also makes us question the utility and adequacy of solving the issue by the means of criminal law. One of the results of our study is also that a change in intermediary liability rules (in the famous Marco Civil) to favour NCII victims has been particularly helpful.
Mariana Giorgetti Valente