A recent survey shows that 79% of the Brazilian population is afraid of being murdered. This fear, that is constant in all regions of Brazil, is reflected in the media coverage. The cycle of violence that increases every day, particularly among the youth, is splashed constantly on the Radio, TV, and in printed and online publications. The statistics back up this fear as the trends show that since the 80’s violence against children and teenagers, aged 1 to 19 years old, increased dramatically, from 6.7% in 1980 to 25% in 2010. This means that, while in 1980 3.1 children were killed for every 100 thousand, in 2010 this number soared to 13.8 in 2010 which represents an increase of 346% in the last three decades. According to a study made by the World Health Organization, these alarming figures put Brazil in fourth place in the list of the most violent countries against children, only behind El Salvador, Guatemala and Iraq.
In reaction to this surge in criminality the Brazilian Government tightened security in the biggest cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which helped to decrease drastically the violence in such places but also collaborated to push the violence to the countryside or other centres. As a consequence, states such as Bahia and Rio Grande do Norte had the murder rate among children and teenagers increase by 7 fold and 5 fold, respectively.
While Brazil made progress in decreasing the mortality rate for children under 5 years old due to improvements in health, sanitation and social benefits, the same cannot be said about the external factors such as violent crimes that claim most of the fatalities among teenagers between the ages of 12 and 19 years old. It is also interesting to mention that boys are the most affected as girls make up only 10% of the fatal victims.
The most surprising conclusion we can draw from these figures is that Brazil lives in an epidemic of indifference and almost complicity by a huge segment of the society and also by the State. Instead of raising awareness for this calamity, the Brazilian society and State believe that the sad fate of the youth is already decided and nothing can be done to change it.
In order to understand the acceptance by the Brazilian society for this cold rationalization, it is important to note that public opinion, in its majority, blames the victims of the violent crimes for their own misfortune. If a teenage criminal is killed by the police or by a delinquent this is seen as a disciplinary action. This near vigilante approach is well received by the large segments of population simply because security policies are unable to shift the violent crime waves that have engulfed Brazil in recent decades.
It seems the economic success experienced in Brazil recently will not contribute, in short term, to the decline in the rate of violence that claims so many lives among the youth. Profound changes in law, security policies and society will play a big role in reversing these deadly numbers.
Written by Chrystian Schadler for ChildFund Ireland in 2013