Brasilien: Maria Berenice Dias

I believe women are the ones who will revolutionize the world.

— Maria Berenice Dias

Maria Berenice Dias (1947) is a judge of the Court of Appeals, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul. Her specialty is the area of Family Law. Mother of three children, she was the first female judge in that state. Berenice is nationally known for being a defender of women's rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights, such as legal abortion, sexual orientation and the recognition of rape as a hedonic crime. Fearless and clear-headed, she not only defends, but also embraces the causes of excluded people.

Although she was born into a family of lawyers, she was not meant for that career. After all, “I was raised being told that women just have to work to pay for their pins, that is, a young woman should be, at most, an elementary school teacher.” However, Berenice Dias challenged conservatism and built wings–made of intelligence and persistence–so she could fly high. That's how she became the first woman to occupy the post of a judge in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, in 1973. “It was really hard; lawyers openly intended to stop women from becoming judges. They wanted me to fail at all costs.” They failed and, in the bargain, started working with an outspoken and wise judge. “I faced gender discrimination at the Judicial Branch, so I became a true defender of all discriminated people.” This Judge spent her life fighting for a fair justice, able to understand the differences and being free of prejudice. “Many judges punish women when they do not submit themselves to the prevailing standards, which are the role of a caring mother and a submissive wife. But, women should have their own lives and decisions.” In 1996, Maria Berenice Dias was the first woman to become a judge in the Court of Appeals in her home state. She works on a difficult area–Family Law. “We only see love coming to an end.” But, she also sees new family models, and Berenice supports them. “If there is affection, there is a family.” Based on that, she defends the idea that homosexual and heterosexual couples should have the same rights. Berenice's strength seems to be never ending. She is involved in several non-governmental organizations and embraces many causes, as long as they fight for a better world with better people.

Court of Appeals of the State of Rio Grande do Sul