Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A real problem

I've been thinking about this for some time now, and after today it really came to a head for me. There is a HUGE problem of violence against women here in Salvador. Of course, all over the world there are problems with violence against women, but I'm seeing so many examples of it here, it's really hit me hard how much it sucks to be a woman in this city.

Today I was riding the bus to go teach a class and was running late. I called my student to tell her that I would be about 5-10 minutes behind schedule and she asked to cancel our class. Turns out that yesterday at about 6:30PM her sister was out with her boyfriend at this beach that is a well known tourist area. There were a ton of people around and she was drinking a coconut water with her boyfriend. Suddenly, 2 guys showed up, one with a gun and told her to get into a car. I didn't get all the details of what happened, but it was what is called here "sequestro relampago" or "lightning kidnapping". This usually involves someone getting kidnapped for a short time, during which the robbers take the person to various ATMs to withdraw as much money as they can and/or extract money in other ways. I don't know if my student's family had to pay some money or if they took her to a bunch of banks, but I do know that she showed up at the house in the middle of the night, shoeless, dirty and with a broken arm. Shit like this a) scares the hell out of me and b) makes me super f***ing angry.

I recently read a newspaper story in the local paper about the increase in assaults on cars here. Robbers will hang out at traffic lights, break the window of the car with a big rock and steal purses or whatever they can. The targets? Women and older people who are driving alone.

When I lived in the US I once went to a take back the night rally. I remember feeling empowered to be out and about with a huge group of women at night and was glad to have a chance to speak out about violence. But violence there seems like nothing compared to what it's like it here. I feel like I'm in the middle of a war-zone and that being a foreign woman just puts a huge target on my back.

How can these men sleep at night?

By the way...the banner above says "Where there's violence, everyone loses".


lovelydharma said...

Yeah, Brazil is such a contrast. So much beauty. So much ugliness. I wouldn't have lasted 3 months in Rio or Salvador. (And I'm from New York!) It would have made me a very angry person. If/when you come back, swing by Minas. It's a lot calmer down here.

Pedra said...

Yeah...I've heard that Minas is cool. I don't know how I've lasted so long here. I really like my work, so that helps, but traveling around the city is a challenge. I read today in the paper that bus assaults are already up 144% so far in 2009 than in 2008. Makes riding the bus a bit nerve-wracking!

lovelydharma said...

Yikes! 144%... You really have to be strong to make it there -- well the beaches and the sunny climate and the capoeira must make up for a lot of it. In addition to the crime, I don't handle the heat well and I fry like a lobster so as much as I love the ocean (and was ecstatic with my one surf lesson) I'm pretty happy in the mountains. Sounds like you've met some interesting people though and that it will be a memorable experience in many ways!