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Politics | Society | Gender - Women | Human rights

Mozambican parliament ignores domestic violence

afrol News / Gender Links, 23 October - When Mozambique’s national parliament opened for its last session for 2007 at the beginning of October, recommendations from the Mozambican Women’s Forum about what could be included for discussion to draft a national Domestic Violence Act were noticeably absent from the agenda.

It has been almost a year since the forum drew up its list of recommendations, which seem to be gathering dust somewhere in the parliamentary shelves, a sad reflection on the nation’s commitment to ending gender violence.

With the fast approaching 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, held annually from 25 November to 10 December, it is an ideal time for parliament to seriously consider legislation that will help to protect against domestic violence.

In Mozambique, there is currently no specific law dealing with cases of domestic violence. Although police can charge perpetrators under some provisions of the Penal Code or the Family Law, these can be vague and do not address the specific needs of this type of violence.

Though most countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are still struggling to see specific Domestic Violence Acts put in place, Mozambique should not see this as an excuse not to implement such laws, but rather follow the leading example of countries such as Mauritius, South Africa, Namibia and Seychelles, and be at the forefront of this movement.

Since its first introduction to the national agenda in 2004, the Domestic Violence Bill has seen little movement forward. While the front pages of country’s vibrant newspapers and the screens of television show widespread cases of domestic violence, the victims do not have much solace if they decide to seek solace through the courts of law.

At times, perpetrators walk away free after the justice system fails to make charges stick, either because the case is not “water tight” or simply it is the absence of a specific law clause addressing the type of crime committed.

In this context, it sometimes creates a dangerous situation for the victim, as he/she is further at risk by the perpetrator if the charges are dropped. At the same time, it also discourages the victim from further seeking legal recourse in the future.

It is against this backdrop that the Mozambican Women’s Forum is vigorously campaigning for a specific law to address cases of domestic violence. Though there is no doubt that women represent the higher number of victims of domestic violence.

Yet, it is important to know that such a law serves to protect both women and men. In June this year, the national office against domestic violence reported an increasing number of men reporting their spouses because of abuse in 2006 than in 2005.

The office said in 2006, it attended to cases of 767 men who reported abuse by their spouses, an increase from 57 cases in cases reported in the previous year.

The office also states that there are increasing numbers of cases abuses overall, including men, women and children. It revealed that 2,709 cases were reported in 2,006 against 2,365 cases in 2005.

The rate at which these cases were resolved has almost been at the same stages in the both years as the success rate was less than 50 percent. In 2006, some 1,333 cases were resolved as compared to 1,222 cases in the previous year.

It is disturbing that only half of all cases are resolved. A specific law would help to resolve this situation. The provisions of this law that likely act as a greater deterrent to would be abusers or even repeat offenders, as they would be clearly aware of the consequences they will face if they are caught on the wrong side of the law.

It is absurd for a parliament voted by majority to ignore such pertinent issues as domestic violence for discussion. After all, it is the same battered women and children that politicians would be approaching for votes at election time.

It is high time that countries like Mozambique embrace into their constitutions and law books statutes like Domestic Violence Acts that would not only advance the country’s human rights record, but act a yardstick for human development.

It is only a free population that is not afraid of abuse in their own homes by their beloved ones that can play their full role to innovate and contribute to the positive development of a nation.

Fred Katerere is a Mozambican freelance journalist and contributor of a Mozambican based correspondent of the South African Press Association (SAPA). This article is part of the Gender GL Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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