Brazil’s New Constitution, established in 1989, created legal measures to defend gender and race issues, however discrimination has actually increased. To date, women have suffered from prejudice and discrimination when seeking legal support. Women are often harassed while registering their complaint at the police station. Denise Dourado Dora, a lawyer and long-time defender of women’s rights, is combating gender and socio-economic inequalities in Brazil by increasing women’s access to the justice system, training poor, disenfranchised women to fight for their rights in the legal sphere. Using Themis, Dora is working to expand the national discussion on equal access to justice. Through Themis and the successful SIM and legal training programs for community leaders, she is challenging the judicial system by bringing cases before the courts that would otherwise be ignored. As a next phase, she is working to strengthen SIM’s links with local services and community institutions to fight abuse, concentrating on preventing rights violations.
The SIM (Information Services for Women) receives formal complaints about abuse and violence against women and provides assistance in individual and collective cases. With technical support from Themis’ staff, both programs are led and supervised by popular legal prosecutors. While on the one hand, Themis represents women in the courts, Dora’s program also engages women to demand their own rights, enabling them to become actors within the judicial system, including creation of jobs for women to work as public prosecutors. A key element of Themis’ program is to transform the judicial system itself that for so long has perpetuated discrimination and inequality for women. One of Themis’ slogans is “Say SIM to Women” ( “yes” in Portuguese). Denise has developed direct collaboration with judges and members of the Public Defender’s office through training courses, some of whom are now co-teaching community leaders’ classes with Themis’ lawyers.
Web site: http://www.themis.org.br/