Maria da Penha

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Maria da Penha

Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes is a Brazilian biopharmacist and women human rights defender. She advocates for women rights, particularly against domestic violence.[1] Born in 1945 in Fortaleza, in the Brazilian state of Ceará, Maria da Penha was a victim of domestic violence by her husband. She brought a case against her attacker to be condemned, first in the Federal Court of Brazil and later in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

On August 7, 2006, the president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva put the Federal Brazilian Law 11340 into practice. Now known as the Law Maria da Penha, it increased the severity of punishment for domestic violence against women, whenever it occurred in a domestic or family environment.[2]


In 1983, her husband, Colombian schoolteacher Marco Antonio Heredia Viveros, attempted to kill her twice. The first time he shot her in her sleep, but she survived, the second time he tried to electrocute her while she showered. Penha was left paraplegic due to these attacks.[1] In the following year Maria da Penha began a legal process against Viveros. Seven years later, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The defense appealed the sentence and the conviction was overturned. A new trial was held in 1996 and a sentence of 10 years was applied. In 2001, Viveros was sentenced to eight years in prison. Through legal resources, he was jailed for two years. Viveiros was released in 2002.[3]

In 2001, the episode came to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) and for the first time in history it was considered a crime of domestic violence.[4] The Commission published a report blaming the Brazilian government for negligence and omission regarding domestic violence.[5] On August 7, 2006 the Brazilian government sanctioned the law against domestic violence toward women, entering into force on September 22 of that year.

Today, Penha is coordinator of studies of the Associação de Parentes e Amigos de Vítimas de Violência (APAVV), in the Brazilian state of Ceará. She attended the ceremony of the sanction of Brazilian law that bears her name, together with other ministers and representatives of the Brazilian feminist movement.


  1. ^ a b "Maria da Penha Law: A Name that Changed Society". UN Women. United Nations. 30 August 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  2. ^ "LEI Nº 11.340, DE 7 DE AGOSTO DE 2006". Presidência da República-Casa Civil-Subchefia para Assuntos Jurídicos. Brazilian Federal Government. 7 August 2006. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Lei Maria da Penha completa 6 anos". Folha de Campinas. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  4. ^ "RELEVANT CASES:Maria da Penha/Brazil". Center for Justice and International Law. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  5. ^ "RELATÓRIO N° 54/01* CASO 12.051". International Commission of Human Rights. Organization of American States. 4 April 2001. Retrieved 7 August 2014.