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In 2010, Brazilian soccer player Bruno Fernandes de Souza had his former girlfriend abducted, tortured, murdered, and fed to a pack of dogs. After serving just under a seven year prison sentence, he is now returning to the game.Twenty-five-year-old Eliza Samudio had claimed that the goalkeeper, who is known as "Bruno" in his homeland, was the father of her four-month-old son. (Subsequent paternity tests have confirmed that Fernandes is the father of Samudio's son.) Whilst pregnant, she filed a police report claiming that Fernandes's associates had abducted her and attempted to force her to have an abortion. At the time of her murder, Samudio was attempting to legally prove that her son was Fernandes's and was seeking financial support from the soccer player.
In 2013, a Brazilian court found Fernandes responsible for Samudio's abduction, homicide, and concealing her corpse. He was sentenced to 22 years in jail, but was released after only six years earlier this year on a legal technicality while awaiting his final appeal. Now—because literally feeding the mother of your child to a pack of dogs is apparently not such a bad thing in the world of professional sport—de Souza has been signed to Boa Esporte, a second-divison club, for two years.
In a spectacularly disingenuous statement, club owner Rafael Gois Silva Xavier explained that Fernandes "was found guilty, he served his time and he was released by the courts. He deserves another opportunity." Despite widespread outrage in Brazil, his contract still stands at the time of writing.
"Yes, it is true that there's nothing illegal in Bruno's release from jail," explains leading Brazilian feminist and professor of law, Debora Dinez. She explains that Fernandes has been awaiting his final condemnatory sentence and the result of a legal appeal for three years. "[But] what the Brazilian criminal justice system did in Bruno's case—which is to follow the law regarding imprisonment—is rare in a country with the fourth biggest prison population in the world."Instead, like countless law-breaking male sports starts before him (I'm looking at you, OJ), Fernandes's case exposes the faultlines at the heart of his country's legal system.
Brazil's endemic problem of violence against women is epitomized by Fernandes's rapid re-entry into the highest levels of society. Whilst Brazil's anti-domestic and sexual violence laws are relatively strong thanks to the efforts of Brazilian feminist activists, longstanding cultural attitudes normalize and legitimize violence against women. According to the UN, a woman is assaulted in São Paulo every 15 seconds."Bruno's fast hiring and warm welcome from his fan base is yet another sign of criminal selectivity, aggravated by a context of social intolerance regarding femicide and violence against women," Dinez says.Meanwhile, rampant injustice and sexist attitudes go unchecked. "Women seeking medical care post-abortion are taken from hospitals straight to jail," Dinez points out, highlighting Brazilian president Michel Temer's recent comments as an example of how negligent the government is when it comes to women's rights. Speaking on International Women's Day, Temer praised women for their housekeeping skills and their ability to notice fluctuating supermarket prices. Shortly after coming into office, Temer abolished the Brazil's ministry of women.Put simply? "Bruno's case is the product of a justice system that reproduces inequalities," Dinez concludes.