refugees
Brazil increasingly receives refugee women. Photo: Reproduction Flickr/ UNHCR/ Frederic NOY

A debate with the participation of refugees and feminist organizations provided the exchange of experiences on women's issues involving refugee women and discussed violence against women in countries of origin and in Brazil to stimulate transnational female solidarity. The event was organized by Cáritas at the Getulio Vargas Memorial in Rio de Janeiro.

According to Cáritas, the number of women seeking refuge in Brazil has increased since 2014, from 30,1% in that year to 40,4% in 2015 and to 42,3% of all requests made by November 2016.

The person responsible for institutional relations at the Caritas Refugee Assistance Program in Rio de Janeiro, Nina Queiroga, says that this increase may be related to the violations they suffer in their countries. She cites the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the countries with the highest number of asylum requests in Rio de Janeiro, which has been going through a war for 20 years and has already left 6 million dead.

“Within this war, we realize that the violations caused against women have very little accountability and very little combat. So, there is a relationship in that there is a greater presence of Congolese asylum requests in general. It also hypothesizes that women are better understanding their rights and are seeking new realities of support and refuge.”

institutionalized violence

In Brazil for two years, Mireille Muluila says that in Congo, her country of origin, violence against women is institutionalized, both as a weapon of war, where rapes are carried out by rebel militias, and at home, where culture place puts the woman totally submissive to her husband.

“Several women and children are raped and raped because of the war, it is used as a way of imposing terror, but it also happens at home, by husbands. Rape can happen on the street, but also with someone you know, like a husband who forces his wife to have sex, even if she doesn't want to, and even beats her for it.”

Mireille reported that forced marriages, including with preteen girls, are common in Congo. She says that, many times, the woman is forced to flee the rebels with the clothes on her body and without being able to meet her family members to plan her departure from the country.

“What is happening in my country is causing these women to leave. When violence occurs against the woman or another person in the family, such as the mother or daughter, she has to flee with the people who are with her, but it is difficult, because the arrival of the rebels can happen at a time when the woman does not is at home and she has to leave the way she is, unable to return home. This means that many women are fleeing their countries and asking for refuge, as here in Brazil”.

Transnational Solidarity

Cases like Mireille's led a group of women to record these stories. One of those responsible for the project, Luciana Salvatore, says that the approach started with letter workshops and evolved into the film Travessias, which was shown in the debate.

“The idea is that these women could express, through the letter, their deepest, most intimate feelings. The film went through our need to meet these women and meet them and understand this most intimate universe that is ours, that is theirs, of all women. It is a whole work of non-violence and overcoming within the feminine universe. Violence is similar in feeling. A raped woman will have the same feeling anywhere in the world.”

A member of the Não me Kahlo collective, Bruna Rangel presented data on violence against women in Brazil, for all to unite in the fight against violations of rights.

“The data on violence against women in Brazil will obviously also affect the lives of these women who are now also part of our society. They contribute by bringing their experiences and those of their countries, but mainly from us paying attention to them, what we can do for them. It is a matter of union between women, we realize that they have a very small participation in Congress and have immense difficulty in implementing public policies, so the support of civil society is extremely important”.

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