Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Brazilian Doctor Convicted of Statutory Rape Freed Because Victims Married  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A Southern Hemisphere eye-opener...Juan Non-Volokh at Volokh Conspiracy reports on an egregious example of Brazil's statutory rape law:
Dr. Boadyr Veloso, a "politically prominent" physician, was convicted in 2000 for statutory rape of seven girls, and sentenced to ten years and eight months in prison. In February 2004, however, Dr. Veloso was released and his sentence nullified. Why? Because all seven of the girls with whom he had sex had since married. The law in Brazil apparently provides that a sex criminal's conviction can be nullified if his victim gets married.

As explained by one politician quoted in the story, this law was adopted in the 1940s, when "a woman's destiny was marriage, and a woman who was raped lost her chance to fulfil that destiny. So marriage was seen as resolving the damage of sexual abuse." In other words, if a young girl is raped, the only harm is the reduced likelihood a man will wish to marry her. How offensive. How bizarre. At least one member of Brazil's legislature is seeking to have the law repealed.

The story includes other interesting details of Dr. Veloso's case: Several of the women involved were married under suspicious circumstances. Three of the women were married by the same justice of the peace on the same day, and then same official married three more just twelve days later. Dr. Veloso always maintained his innocence of all charges, yet there are also reports he paid some of the women to marry. For those interested, the story is "Convicted of Rape, Brazilian Doctor Finds Way to Remain Free," by Matt Moffett, in the Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2004, A1.
Basically, it's not a statutory rape law, it's a damaged-goods property law:
Another reader e-mails this "sidebar" to the story: Prior to January 11, 2004, Brazilian law allowed a man to obtain an annulment in the first 10 days of the marriage if he discovered that his wife was not a virgin. Mt correspondent adds: "One wonders if Veloso's sentence would've been reinstated, had any of the husbands decided to annul their marriages." Indeed.
...with a 10-day 'money-back guarantee'. I admit I was surprised that this law was adopted only about 60 years ago: in its archaic attitude, it strikes me as something from the 19th Century or older. [also on Bloomberg.com]