Survey shows 86% of Brazilian women have experienced street harassment

Half of the respondents said they have been stalked in the street, and

Published in 20/05/2016 - 14:37 By Heloisa Cristaldo reports from Agência Brasil - Brasília

Brasília - O metrô da cidade já conta com um vagão exclusivo para mulheres. Conhecido como Vagão Rosa, a maioria das usuárias disse se sentir mais segura contra abuso sexuais (Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil)

Brasília subway reserves women-only passenger car. Most users said they felt safer from sexual abuse.Fábio Rodrigues pozzebom/Agência Brasil

A survey released by ActionAid international anti-poverty agency on Friday (May 20) found that 86% of Brazilian women have experienced harassment in public spaces in their cities. In the scope of the survey, harassment includes unwanted, threatening, and abusive conduct against women that can take the form of verbal, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Conducted by YouGov Institute, the survey heard 2,500 women aged 16 years and above in major cities in Brazil, India, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. It showed that street harassment is a serious concern in other countries as well, and has been experienced by 86% of the respondents in Thailand, 79% in India, and 75% in England.

In Brazil, 503 women were heard across the five Brazilian regions in a sample that reflected Brazilian demographics based on the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) census.

Types of harassment

Wolfwhistling is the most common form of public harassment of women (77%), followed by staring (74%), sexual comments (57%) and cursing (39%). Half of the respondents in Brazil said they have been stalked in the streets, 44% have experienced unwanted physical contact, 37% said they have been exposed to flashing (showing sexual organs) or other lascivious exhibition, and 8% have been raped in public spaces.

“There is scarcely a woman that has never been harassed in a public space. This is a serious concern. Experiencing fear of harassment, of being insulted, stared at, stalked, even raped and murdered. These figures are striking when you consider that half of the women say they have been stalked in the street, and half say they have had their bodies touched,” says Nadine Gasman.

Gender bias

BRASÍLIA, DF, BRASIL, 14-04-2015, 09h30: Nadine Gasman, representante do escritório da ONU Mulheres no Brasil, durante o painel Pequim+20: Mais Mulheres na Política. (Foto: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil)

The UN representative Nadine Gasman says that public policies should be implemented to ensure women are safe in public spaces.Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

The UN representative said that the figures reflect the broader gender bias in society. “This is a gender issue, it's about understanding that women are not regarded as equal to men in the society, wherever you go. There is a conception that women should have a subordinate role at home or at the workplace. [World Health Organization] data indicates that one in every three women is abused at home. For many men, the bodies and lives of women are property that can be looked at, touched, or raped,” she said.

According to Nadine Gasman, public policies should be implemented to ensure women are safe in public spaces, including adequate street lighting and women-only mass transit.

Failure to respond

Suzana Borges, a Civil Law professor at the University of Brasilia (UnB), believes that street harassment is not being adequately repressed.

“This is a social issue because, as a result of a historical gender bias, women have faced repression and abuse both in public and private spaces, among family members, at home, and at the workplace,” she said.

Suzana Borges says women need to speak out about the harassment they experience in their everyday lives. “Because it is a gender issue, speaking out can help improve protection.”

The respondents were also asked what situations have made them more anxious about harassment. Seventy percent mentioned walking in the streets; for 69%, it was leaving or arriving home after dusk, and 68% mentioned public transport.

Looking at other countries, 43% of women heard in England and 62% in Thailand said they felt most vulnerable in their city streets, whereas in India, public transport is the most threatening place, mentioned by 65% of the respondents.


“The absence of a gender perspective in city planning—when planning timetables, transport, and educational approaches at schools, for example—is very worrying. This creates and perpetuates a culture of violence, of standardized and normalized violence, of men growing up learning to harass women, and this is not being challenged. The survey revealed that violence internalization has deep roots. There is an urgent need to address it on several levels,” said Glauce Arzua, Safe Cities for Women campaign coordinator in Brazil.

Launched by ActionAid in Brazil in 2014, the campaign aims to improve the quality of public services in the cities to make them more welcoming for women and girls.

Glauce Arzua mentioned education as a key factor in stopping harassment around the world. “The educational approach is key to coping [with harassment]. Certain steps taken in Brazil—women-only train cars—are just temporary fixes. We need to change this culture, and this includes campaigns, manager training, and, above all, creating opportunities to introduce the gender perspective into city planning,” she said.

Translated by Mayra Borges

Fonte: Survey shows 86% of Brazilian women have experienced street harassment

Edition: Fábio Massalli / Nira Foster

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