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Why Is The Alienation Law So Problematic For Brazilian Mothers?


The parental alienation law was institutionalized in Brazil in 2010, as a way to combat the bad psychological influences that parents may infringe on their kids, usually when divorce happens. Thus, they pass through separation and, due to the non-acceptance, revenge or anger of the event, one part – commonly the parent who kept the children custody  – defames the other in order to destroy the good relationship between them. However, this is in theory. 

There is a shadowy side of the law that is not being spoken: a lot of mothers are losing their child custody for abusive or pedophiles fathers. Justice considers woman alienating and, in reason of this, they lie about sexual abuse, even when kids show signs of harassment. Why? The assumption of the law is the possibility of adults implanting false memories in children’s heads, notwithstanding there are no scientific comprovations about creating fantasies over things that never happened. 

Some parents separate and start to defame each other to their kids without emotional responsibility, but many specialists suggest a different kind of name for this generalized immaturity: parental power abuse or bad psychological influence. And, even being an usual event, that’s no need for a law with only eight articles which opens space to misogyny, given that Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA, in Portuguese) has existed since 1990 with two hundreds sixty seven articles that gives complete protection for minors – beyond respect to all people. 

Sibele de Lima Lemos, lawyer, activist against the law of parental alienation and owner of the Instagram page @cpivozmaterna2017, says that “the question of the law of alienation is the ideology – we can’t say it is a theory because doesn’t have any scientific recognition by international entities – created with the purpose of disqualify all violence denunciation made by woman. All movements of the mother to protect her life, safeguard her physical integrity, and her children as well, from the aggressor or rapist, is called parental alienation. Because first: we can’t prove it. Second: no one believes in kids and women.”

Parental alienation and sexual abuse are, in Brazilian judicial system, investigated in different places. The first one is processed in civil, which requires less evidence to open a case, and the second, in criminal – the total opposite, since depending on the result, the person judged could go to jail. However, this become a problem and Lemos explains how: “At the moment the woman file a lawsuit of domestic violence or make a police report about sexual abuse, knowing these cases are too slow, the father automatically file another lawsuit of parental alienation for hinder conviviality. There is an article on law that says it is processed in priority, so investigating domestic violence or abuse isn’t a priority. Priority is to ensure coexistence between father and kid, regardless of whether he is an aggressor or not.”

“There are a lot of cases of custody inversion in Brazil. The woman keeps trying to denounce violence against her son, because he brings reports to her. Then, he passes through family court expertise, which doesn’t have attribution and competence to evaluate  violence questions because we’re dealing with custody dispute. What happens is: we have a judiciary extremely contaminated with this ideology that the mother does everything to harm conviviality, so in family court the signs of parental alienation are detected. The law is used in this endless expertises with psychologists and social assistants to prove the mother is an alienator. 90% of mothers that denounced sexual abuse lost the custody of her kids, taking as example the cases I follow. This is absurd. The kids victims of sexual abuse are with their abusers. This is pedophilia maintenance.”    

The lawyer clarifies about the unseen characteristics of the abused child: “The kid puke to not go to the visits, cries, lose weight, have school regressions and nocturnal enuresis, besides manifesting, in many language forms, but if she/he don’t tell with all words what happened, it’s considered a false denounce and the mother implanted a false memory in the kid’s head in order to prejudice the father. All of this is parental alienation and has a reasoning in what the ideology author, Richard Gardner created.”

He was a contradictory figure, who made career defending more than four hundreds cases of abusive men, never had recognition from the scientific community, self-published all his articles and books. The way he found to notice an alienated child was doing a voluntary job at Columbia University where there was a service to assist sexually abused children. So he drew a parallel and transformed abuse symptoms in parental alienation symptoms. 

The bill of number 4.053 has Richard Gardner quotes and other unreliable sources.Lemos gave details about the period that the law gained validity: “The bill’s subsidies were created from blogs and a text of François Podevyn, a man who nobody knows (could be a codename) and inside his article there are references produced by Richard Gardner. The law was approved in only twenty-two months and had only one public audience. The National Child Rights Council wasn’t called to participate in the debate and there were five guests: four were favorable to the approval (however no one was specialized in the area) and one representant of the Federal Council of Psychology made many observations about the concern of approving a law that had the character of criminalizing woman.”  

men holding up a banner for women's equality
Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Feminicide is most common with mothers and this is shown on the statistics: 87% of women who suffered murder in the hands of men in the State of Ceará were mothers and in the State of Rio de Janeiro, the percentage is 74%. There is a recent research from the Public Ministry which says that in 2019, 19.000 protective measures were emitted for women. Less than 5% were extended for their kids. In 2020, pandemic year, almost the same were emitted and less than 4% were extended for kids. 

The advocate completes stating: “There is a naturalization of violence against women because motherhood is a tool of patriarchy maintenance. A woman who is a mother is raped two times. While we don’t understand that in order to protect women, we have to protect her children as well, because kids are the aggressor’s access to the woman, we won’t interrupt this violence cycle and we won’t decrease feminicide index in Brazil.” 

Lemos finished talking about her job defending and supporting women: “We have to fortify ourselves as survivors. The most important for a woman in a situation like that is to feel believed. I believe in women and their kids. We give the support that the State doesn’t give to the victims of parental alienation and domestic violence systems.”


The article above was edited by Gabriela Sartorato.  

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Maria Edhuarda Castro

Casper Libero '21

Journalism student In love with words, dance and all kinds of beauty
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