Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Faith-Based Organisations as Welfare Providers in Brazil: The Conflict over Gender in Cases of Domestic Violence

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Abstract:  What does the growth of faith-based organisations (FBOs) in social welfare mean for women’s rights and gender equality, especially within advocacy services for women experiencing domestic violence? Through empirical research within a Catholic-based organisation providing welfare services to abused women in São Paulo, Brazil, this article argues that FBOs can negatively impact the provision of women’s rights when conservative and patriarchal views towards gender and women’s roles in society are maintained. A heavily matrifocal perspective, where women’s identity and subjectivity are mediated through their normative roles as wives, mothers and carers of the family, appears to offer little possibility of change for abused women, who are encouraged to forgive violent husbands and question their own behaviour. Mediation between couples is promoted, undermining women’s rights upheld through Brazil’s domestic violence law (Lei Maria da Penha no 11.340). Furthermore, the focus of family preservation, supported by a patriarchal state, means that violence against women (VAW) appears to be subordinated to a focus on family violence and violence against children. In this case, faith-based involvement in social welfare rejects the feminist analysis of VAW as a gender-based problem, viewing it as a personal issue rather than a collective or political issue, making women responsible for the violence in their lives.

Keywords:  Brazil; Catholic church; domestic violence; faith-based organisations; gender; religion; violence; welfare; women; women’s rights



© Kim Beecheno. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.