The Birth of the World’s First Women’s Police Station

  • Cecília MacDowell Santos


On August 6, 1985, the São Paulo Police Department attracted local, national and even international media attention for reasons other than the usual police corruption, police violence against street kids, or human rights abuses in jails. The media buzz centered on the Delegacia de Polícia de Defesa da Mulher (Police Station in Defense of Women), a specialized police station run exclusively by female police officers, established by the São Paulo state government solely to investigate crimes of violence against women. Created in the context of Brazil’s transition from military to civilian rule, this unique institution was made possible through the process of redemocratization. In the mid-1970s, the military-authoritarian regime, in power since the 1964 military coup, had been forced by organized sectors of the civil society to initiate a process of political liberalization known as Abertura Política (Political Opening). In the early 1980s, elections for state governors and the redemocratization process opened up new opportunities for feminist activists and other social movement actors to directly participate in designing public policy and legal reform. This culminated in the creation of women’s “machineries,” such as women’s police stations (Alvarez 1990).


Domestic Violence Police Station Police Officer Sexual Violence Police Force 
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© Cecίlia MacDowell Santos 2005

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  • Cecília MacDowell Santos

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