‘Sex without consent is rape’ – Istanbul Convention, 2011
‘Violence against women is a crime and a shame for the country’
– Rosa Monteiro, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality
Although in Portugal verbal sexual harassment is a crime – with penalties varying from a fine of up to 120 euros to a year in prison – violence against women is increasing.
In the first ten months of this year, already 24 women have been killed by their (ex) partners or close relatives. Four more than in 2017.
‘As long as our society maintains its patriarchal and male chauvinist features, aggression against women is legitimized’, says Elisabeth Brasil of the Assassinated Women’s Observatory (OMA), accusing the government of not providing the necessary support to the victims of domestic violence.
The legal system doesn’t seem to be very woman-friendly either and courts often continue to disclaim the perpetrators and hold the victims accountable. Only one-third of the convicts for sexual crimes – rape, sexual coercion, and abuse – end up in prison, while most of them walk free with a suspended prison sentence.
Conceição Cunha, professor of Criminal Law at Porto’s Catholic University, also has the impression that condemnation to imprisonment is low for sex crimes. Lawyer Leonore Valente Monteiro isn’t surprised at all about the low number of convictions, especially ‘if the abuse doesn’t leave physical marks.’
In the meantime, the government becomes convinced that the legislation on sexual crimes needs to be reviewed in the light of the Istanbul Convention, ratified by Portugal in 2013. This Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence states very clear in article 36, that ‘a sexual act without voluntary consent is a crime.’
But not only the Portuguese legislation is inadequate on women abuse, maintaining a culture of blaming the victim and perpetuate impunity. Amnesty International shows in their report ‘Right to be free from rape’, that the majority of the European countries continue to acknowledge rape only if there is proof of physical violence or coercion. Merely 8 of the 31 member states define rape based on the ‘lack of consent’, as defined in the Istanbul declaration.
Bom fim de semana Enjoy the weekend (pic SAPO/LUSA)