Survey from the Igarape Institute shows the violence suffered by defenders of the Amazon in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru
From 287 respondents, almost half suffered some type of violence between 2021 and 2022. Psychological violence is the most cited in all three countries.
In the Amazon, women who are at the forefront of the fight against the illegal exploitation of the forest’s natural resources, land invasion, and expropriation of peoples suffer violence that goes beyond their bodies. A survey conducted by the Igarapé Institute with 287 defenders of the Amazon basin in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru shows that 47% of them were victims of some form of violence between 2021 and 2022 – and psychological violence is the most cited in all three countries: 28% of the responses in Brazil, 30% in Colombia, and 42% in Peru. Moral violence comes second, with 22% of mentions in Brazil, 12% in Colombia, and 19% in Peru.
The survey was developed with the consultancy of 13 Amazon defenders, trained by Igarapé to, from their networks of relationships, interview women who work in defense of human rights and the environment in the region. The aim was to map who they are, where they are, what their risks and vulnerabilities are, and to provoke protection systems to focus on gender issues to be more effective.
“The problem starts with the very invisibility of the different conflicts present in the Amazon, which involve issues related to the right to land, water, and the preservation of the environment. Often, it is women who are at the forefront of the fight for these rights and, therefore, they end up suffering various types of violence and aggressions that remain hidden and often naturalized,” says Melina Risso, Research Director of the Igarapé Institute.
So naturalized that not all women in the struggle for human rights and in defense of the environment recognize themselves as defenders, as a 2021 Igarapé survey showed. The group of consultants, made up of recognized defenders such as Angela Mendes, daughter and heiress of Chico Mendes, the rubber tapper leader murdered in 1988; Elizângela Baré, indigenous leader of the Upper Rio Negro; and human rights activist Claudelice dos Santos, worked with Igarapé to bring to light data more in line with the reality of this violence.
In the questionnaires, for example, they classified 19 types of violence. With their different identities and nationalities, the women interviewed provided responses that reveal some patterns. The high rate of “unknowns” in indicating who committed the violence – almost half (49%) of mentions in Colombia, 36% in Peru, and 24% in Brazil – suggests the use of common intimidation and silencing tactics by the perpetrators.
In Brazil, the percentage of responses (16%), higher than the other countries, points to landowners, farmers, land grabbers, and squatters as the perpetrators. It was also the country where there was the largest proportion of mentions (43%) to “electronic means”, which include social media, as instruments of violence.
The work is part of the project that Igarapé has been conducting for two years with the aim of recognizing the defenders, uncovering the violence against them, and contributing to their protection, promoting research, protection, and paid training programs. The majority of women from the three countries surveyed (67% in Brazil, 57% in Colombia, and 83% in Peru) are not paid for their work as defenders, constituting another form of violence and invisibility.
- Brazil has the highest percentage of responses for “isolation, invisibility, and silencing”: 23% of the women interviewed reported having suffered this type of violence;
- Among the Brazilian women heard, 11% said that the conflicts in their territories happen because of infrastructure projects, well above Colombia (1%) and Peru, which was less than 1%.
- The defenders interviewed who left their original/operating territories represent 44% in Brazil, 42% in Colombia, and 55% in Peru. When asked the reasons, in Brazil and Peru, most of the responses pointed to an economic need or to study. In all three countries, however, it is interesting to note the rates of “personal reasons” (55% in Colombia, 37% in Peru, and 26% in Brazil), which could mask domestic violence; and the situation in Colombia, where 24% of them left due to armed conflicts.
- Half of the defenders who suffered violence in Colombia and Peru, and 36% of them in Brazil, reported not having received any kind of attention.
The research, in the form of an interactive infographic, can be accessed here.
The profile of the 13 defenders can be accessed here.
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About the Igarapé Institute
The Igarapé Institute is an independent think and do tank that develops research, solutions, and partnerships with the aim of impacting both policies and public and corporate practices in overcoming major global challenges. Our mission is to contribute to public, digital, and climate security in Brazil and the world. Igarapé is a non-profit and non-partisan institution, based in Rio de Janeiro and operating at the local to global level.