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Brazil: New Law Creates Program to Combat Bullying Nationwide

(Nov. 13, 2015) On November 6, 2015, Brazil’s legislature enacted Law No. 13,185 on the creation of a national program to combat systematic intimidation (bullying) (Programa de Combate à Intimidação Sistemática). (Lei No. 13.185, de 6 de Novembro de 2015, art. 1, PLANALTO.)

Law No. 13,185 defines systematic intimidation (intimidação sistemática) as any act of physical or psychological violence, intentional and repetitive, that occurs with no obvious motivation, practiced by individuals or groups against one or more persons, in order to intimidate or attack the person(s), causing pain and distress to the victim(s) in a relationship of imbalance of power between the parties involved (id. art. 1 §1).

Bullying is characterized by the presence of physical or psychological violence in the practice of acts of intimidation, humiliation, or discrimination accompanied by:

  • physical attacks;
  • personal insults;
  • constant commentary (comentários sistemáticos) and use of derogatory nicknames;
  • threats;
  • derogatory graffiti;
  • biased expressions;
  • conscious and deliberate social isolation; and/or
  • jokes. (Id. art. 2.)

Bullying on the Internet (cyberbullying) exists, according to the Law, when the Internet and its tools are used to disparage, to incite violence, or to tamper with photos and personal data in order to create psychosocial embarrassment. (Id. art. 2, sole ¶.)

Based on the actions performed, Law No. 13,185 classifies bullying as:

  • verbal: insulting, cursing, and/or using pejorative nicknames;
  • moral: defaming, slandering, and/or spreading rumors;
  • sexual: harassing, provoking, and/or abusing;
  • social: ignoring, isolating, and/or excluding;
  • psychological: stalking frightening, terrorizing, intimidating, dominating, manipulating, blackmailing, and/or tormenting;
  • physical: punching, kicking, and/or hitting;
  • material: stealing, robbing, and/or destroying another person’s belongings;
  • virtual: making disparaging remarks, sending messages invading the person’s privacy, and/or sending or tampering with photos and personal data that result in suffering or that create psychological and social embarrassment. (Id. art.3.)

The objectives of the national program are to:

  • prevent and combat the practice of bullying throughout the society;
  • train teachers and teaching teams to implement discussion and prevention of, guidance in handling, and problem solving related to bullying;
  • implement and to disseminate education, awareness, and information campaigns about bullying;
  • establish practices of conduct and guidance for parents, other family members, and guardians when faced with the identification of victims and offenders;
  • provide psychological, social, and legal assistance to victims and offenders;
  • integrate the tools of mass media with schools and society as a means of identification and awareness of the problem and how to prevent it and fight it;
  • promote civic responsibility (cidadania), the ability to empathize, and respect for others, within a framework of a culture of peace and mutual tolerance;
  • avoid as much as possible the punishment of offenders, favoring alternative mechanisms and instruments that promote accountability and alteration of hostile behavior; and
  • promote awareness and prevention of and combat all types of violence associated with bullying, especially where there is a recurring practice of bullying or physical and psychological embarrassment committed by students, teachers, or other professional school members and the school community. (Id. art. 4.)

Pursuant to article 5 of Law No. 13,185, it is the duty of educational institutions, clubs, and recreational associations to ensure awareness, prevention, and diagnosis of and to combat violence and bullying.