A strong legal framework and progress on social norms, but land ownership practices highlight continuing challenges
Across this study's four main areas of inquiry— business law, banking and regulation, property rights and access to collateral, and access to justice—there are few laws in Brazil that would seem to limit women's economic opportunity and much of the legal framework is in place. However, our research into social norms suggests continuing points of inequality.
Most broadly, the legal enfranchisement of women is established in Article 5 of Brazil's Constitution, which mandates equality before the law for "all persons." The Article opens as follows:
"All persons are equal before the law, without any distinction whatsoever, Brazilians and foreigners residing in the country being ensured of inviolability of the right to life, to liberty, to equality, to security and to property."
Government programs focused on alleviating poverty can also be said to play a valuable role in shoring up women's economic prospects. One such program, Minha Casa, Minha Vida, is a housing program initiated in 2009 by the Bank of Brazil and Caixa to promote and subsidize property ownership for lowerincome families. Given that laws regarding property ownership are gender-neutral, the gains fostered by programs such as this have the potential to support women's financial equality.
The OECD Development Centre's Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) is a measure of discrimination against women in social institutions (formal and informal laws, social norms and practices) across 160 countries. SIGI Category 2014 for Brazil is low (0.0458), meaning that Brazil has strong laws providing equal rights for women and men in the family code, in access to resources and assets, and in civil liberties.
Brazilian women have the same inheritance rights as men under the Civil Code. However, while there may not be any legal obstacles preventing women from acquiring and owning land, customarily women are excluded from land inheritance practices. Women in rural areas face discrimination from within the family; land titles are more commonly transferred to elder sons rather than widows. These customary practices continue to be applied, particularly with regard to the exclusion of daughters from inheritance of land, despite legal provisions and pressure from grassroots movements. 9 Women are often denied access to inherited property because they are not recognized as worthy heads of productive units. 10 Moreover, women face a culture that undermines their household decision-making power. Many continue to view women as caregivers dependent on their breadwinning husbands.
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