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Brazilians protest 'culture of rape' amid gang-rape outrage

Thousands of women have taken to streets across Brazil to protest a "culture of rape." The protesters denounced the mindset after the spread of a video allegedly showing a teenager being sexually assaulted by many men.

Demonstrators flooded to the streets of cities across Brazil on Wednesday, including Rio de Janeiro. Among the crowds were signs bearing slogans such as "We are all bleeding" and "Not the victim's fault."

The largest rally was held in Sao Paulo, where more than 5,000 women marched through the city.

The nationwide protests came amid a huge wave of outrage in Brazil over a recently uncovered gang-rape. The case came to light after a video was posted online, depicting a bloodied, naked girl, who was seemingly unconscious on a bed, as a man boasts that she has been "impregnated" by more than 30 men.

Police have since arrested three suspects in the case. Another three are still being hunted.

'Little hope' in politics

The video of the alleged assaults was made on May 21 in a Rio de Janeiro favela, one of the poor and often lawless neighborhoods that are found across many of Brazil's largest cities.

Wednesday's protests came a day after the Brazilian Senate passed a bill increasing the penalties for gang rape and criminalizing rape recordings. However, despite the legal change, many Brazilian women say they see little hope in politics leading to an adequate solution.

Blaming rape victims

Activists say the recent case has also highlighted an entrenched culture of rape and misogyny in Brazil, which allows the violation of women, while blaming them for it afterwards.

Despite video and photographic evidence of her abuse while unconscious, the 16-year-old faced a social media backlash, which included death threats, and attempts to undermine her victimhood, with allegations that she was a gangster's prostitute who regularly traded sex for drugs.

Even the intitial lead investigator of the case suggested that the incident may have been consensual. Police chief Alessandro Thiers has since been removed from the case and replaced with Christiana Bento.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Bento stated that the video footage proved the girl had been collectively raped.

"It's my belief that there was a rape," she said. "She was the victim of sexual abuse, and she's being victimized and judged here. This girl should be looked after."

Women reluctant to report rape

During an interview with Globo television, the victim said Thiers had made her uncomfortable.

"He blamed me," she said. "I think this is why many women don't come forward. They were trying to incriminate me, as if I were to blame for being raped."

According to the Brazilian Forum on Public Security, six women are raped every hour in Brazil. The real number is likely to be higher, however, given that only an estimated 35 percent of offenses are ever reported.

ksb/gsw (AFP, Reuters)

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