Case in Point: Maria da Pehna vs. Brazil

The Inter-American Human Rights System and Violence Against Women: Norms, Compliance Mechanisms, Jurisprudence, Implementation, Lessons Learned, and Recommendations

International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University School of Law
Clinic Director: Francisco Rivera
Supervising Attorney: Britton Schwartz


“In 2001, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided María da Penha v. Brazil – the first decision where the Inter-American Human Rights System applied the Convention of Belém do Pará, as well as the first case where the Commission analyzed domestic violence against women as a human rights violation. This case is also significant because it demonstrates the effectiveness of the Commission’s individual complaint mechanism in pushing Brazil to make significant changes in its legal framework on domestic violence as a direct response to the Commission’s recommendations in this decision. Both the case and the reforms adopted by Brazil highlight the need for an integrated approach towards addressing the systemic problems – such as ineffective prosecutions of abusers – that contribute to individual acts of violence against women.”

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