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Gender training for Brazilian police


Brazil is one of the most violent countries in the world, with some 60,000 people murdered annually. One under-acknowledged aspect of this epidemic is gender-based violence. Dr Fiona Macaulay, Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at the University of Bradford, has partnered up with the Brazilian Forum on Public Security (FBSP) to deliver a very different and more effective form of gender training to police.

Gender-based violence

In 2015 the police recorded over 45,000 rape cases and in 2016, 4,657 women were killed, the majority by persons known to them.

However, despite the introduction in 2015 of a new law creating the specific crime of murdering a girl or woman for motives connected to their social gender roles, only ten per cent of these killings are registered as ‘femicides’.

While there are dedicated police officers and units working to prevent and prosecute gender-based violence, neither police forces as a whole nor the criminal justice system are yet equipped to deal effectively with it.

Absence of human rights and gender issues

One problem is training. Human rights and gender issues are either absent from basic and ongoing training, or squeezed in and taught in a very old-fashioned and didactic way (officers sitting in rows and listening to a lecturer).

An effective form of gender training

Dr Fiona Macaulay has partnered up with the Brazilian Forum on Public Security (FBSP) to deliver a very different and more effective form of gender training to police.

Dr Macaulay does this by bringing together her 25 years of research into human rights, gender issues and criminal justice institutions in Brazil and the award-winning pedagogy that she developed for teaching gender to the students in the Division of Peace Studies and International Development.

 Brazil police gender training

With colleague Juliana Martins, experienced in training the Brazilian police on human rights, she piloted three highly interactive and reflective one-day training sessions in 2016 and 2017 for civil and military police officers.

British Embassy support enabled the project to expand into two-day programmes designed to create multiples in the states of Piauí and Goiás in November 2017.

Tackling violence against women

In February 2018 Dr Macaulay will also be hosting the visit of several Brazilian police officers awarded prizes in the ‘Innovative Practices in Tackling Violence against Women’ annual competition run by the FBSP and the Avon Institute. They will visit the Metropolitan Police and talk to academic specialists in gender-based violence.

The aim of the project is to strengthen good practice, both through the Innovative Practices quality stamp, and through the use of appreciative enquiry, that is, looking at what police already do well, rather than focussing on the ‘deficit’ side.

This approach, which is being applied in the British criminal justice sytem by Dr Victoria Lavis, our colleague in Psychology, was particularly well-received, and the police officers shared many moving accounts of the work they had done in rescuing and supporting victims of abuse, and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Training manual

Dr Macaulay and her colleagues are working on a training manual for police to use with their own colleagues to increase understanding of gender relations, and hence of gender-based violence and what this implies for effective policing.