Argentina’s Women, Gender and Diversity Minister Ayelén Mazzina has signed a joint statement with her Brazilian counterpart, Women’s Minister Cida Gonçalves, declaring their solidarity with Argentine actress Thelma Fardin after a Brazilian court acquitted actor Juan Darthés of sexually assaulting her.
In 2018, Fardin publicly accused Darthes of raping her while they were on tour in Nicaragua. Last week, a Sao Paulo court absolved him: the ruling signed by the judge considered that, although certain aspects of the sexual assault against Fardin were proven, the investigation had not been able to confirm that she had been penetrated, a requirement for conviction under Brazilian law at the time. The law was changed in 2010.
Although the abuse happened in Nicaragua and both Fardin and Darthés are Argentine, the case was tried in Brazil because Darthés moved to Brazil, where he also has citizenship, immediately after the allegations. Brazil does not extradite its citizens.
“The courage of Thelma Fardin to break the silence after so many years encouraged many girls and women to be able to speak and report deeds of these characteristics,” the ministers wrote.
They acknowledged that survivors of sexual violence often do not report crimes against them immediately, both because of the time it takes to process what has happened to them and because of silencing, fear they won’t be believed, and economic worries, among other factors.
“The fact that the sexual violence against Thelma Fardín was committed before the change in Brazilian law, therefore, does not impede the classification of the act as the crime of rape, on the basis of the victim’s word and other elements which may be found in the case file.”
In response to a question from the Herald at a press conference, Gonçalves said that new legislation was making it easier for survivors of sexual violence in Brazil to get justice. “We have advanced in the cases of sexual violence, the new legislation has been complied with, we have advanced in the legal field, but we have also advanced in the political debate about sexual violence,” she said.
The minister gave examples such as Brazil’s femicide law and the 2006 María da Penha law, which established longer jail sentences, special courts, and the provision of refuges in cases of domestic violence.
“We have constructed a solid legislative framework for women in Brazil, but we have a context which is real, which is that, while in a certain period we advanced in the legislation, we had six years of regression.”
Gonçalves was indicating that the governments of far-right Bolsonaro and his predecessor Michel Temer, who was in power for a year and a half after the impeachment of Dilma Rouseff, were hostile towards women’s rights and the legislation pertaining to sexual violence.
In the statement, the ministers added that despite a significant social mobilization against the silencing and impunity of sexual violence, both countries’ judicial systems, like those of the region as a whole, lag behind on convictions.
In March, Brazil’s National Council of Justice approved a resolution adopting gender perspective protocols in the judiciary, meaning particular weight should be given to the word of women who are survivors of gender-based violence.
According to Argentina’s Specialist Fiscal Unit in Violence Against Women (UFEM, by its Spanish initials), only 15.5% of reported sexual assaults end in a conviction. In Brazil, the figure is around 1%, according to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA, by its Portuguese initials).