Mothers, protection and care amongst communities affected by torture and state violence in Brazil

by Maria Gorete Marques de Jesus, Giane Silvestre, Thais Lemos Duarte and Henrik Ronsbo

10 May 2022
Journal of the British Academy
Digital Object Identifier
Number of pages
19 (pp.97-116)

Abstract: This article examines the ways in which protection from torture and violence is understood and practiced by women in poor urban communities in Brazil. It demonstrates that despite a well-developed normative and institutional framework for the protection of survivors of torture and violence, such protection work grows from the notion of motherhood, which can be understood as an outlet for challenging various overlapping orders (race, class and gender) that legitimise torture and violence. Motherhood garners legitimacy in the fight for justice, for the truth and for restoring the positive memories related to the tortured, killed or imprisoned children and it generates moral and political capital that enable political participation for women. The article demonstrates that despite a well-developed institutional and normative framework for protection, everyday protection strategies respond to the perceptions and needs of survivors and their communities and can only be understood in the context of racial and gendered roles and performances of motherhood shaped by the historical enslavement of the Afro-Brazilian population.

Keywords: Torture prevention, Brazil, protection, gender, race, class, social movements

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 10, supplementary issue 3 (Human Rights Protection and Torture).

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