Photos from March protest by NGOs in Mozambique – Courtesy of Lambda Mozambique

Mozambique: Protect women & girls— reject discrimination in new Penal Code

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Date: 
14 May 2014
Update: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

UPDATE 13 NOVEMBER 2014: Your voices were heard — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza did not sign the damaging and discriminatory Penal Code into law! The President returned it to Parliament to revise the provisions that violate Mozambique’s Constitution, including articles on gender equality and children’s rights. According to a letter from the President, his decision was made based on input from the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General’s office and civil society members like you. On behalf of Equality Now and our partners, thank you for taking action! We will continue to update you with developments from Mozambique and our partners.


5 SEPTEMBER 2014 UPDATE: In a disappointing decision, on 11 July, the Mozambican parliament approved a new Penal Code that included the damaging provisions – in addition to new ones on sexual violence and domestic violence legislation – which would set back years of progress, particularly in a country where approximately 50% of women will experience physical violence in their lifetime. Of extreme concern is the new Chapter IX on Domestic Violence (Articles 245-257) which contradicts the more progressive and comprehensive 2009 Domestic Violence Act (DVA). The DVA had been specifically crafted to promote, protect and enforce the rights of women, and overturning it in such a manner would be a major setback towards combatting violence against women.

Renewed call! As the President has not yet signed the code into law, Equality Now and our partners WLSA Mozambique and Plataforma de Luta Pelos Direitos Humanos no Código Penal are exploring all avenues to ensure that Mozambique lives up to its obligations to protect, enforce and uphold the fundamental rights of women and girls. Please call on the officials below and ask them to urge the President to not enact the Penal Code, but rather to return it to Parliament to remove damaging and discriminatory provisions. Thank you for your support.


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In June, Mozambique is set to enact a new penal code that could foster a culture of violence and discrimination if passed as written. While progressive revisions have been made in the proposed draft (Penal Code Review Bill) which was preliminarily approved by Parliament in December 2013, damaging provisions that would jeopardize the safety and rights of women and girls remain, including:

  • vague and limited definitions of rape, which could make it easier for rapists to escape prosecution and fails to protect women from marital rape (Article 217)
  • allowing relatives of criminals to escape prosecution for hindering an investigation or evidence tampering, worsening impunity for crimes of sexual violence (Article 24)
  • defining the rape of a minor as the rape of someone under the age of 12, which directly contradicts laws in Mozambique that define a child as anyone below the age of 18 (Article 218)

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Furthermore, Equality Now and our partners are concerned that a provision from an earlier draft of the legislation, which would allow a rapist to escape punishment by marrying his victim (former Article 223), might be re-introduced into the current draft before the vote.

The vote is mere weeks away. Please Take Action today!

If this legislation is approved without rectifying these harmful discriminatory provisions, the ramifications for women and girls would be extremely harmful, signaling that rape and sexual violence are less serious crimes, if crimes at all, and will not be prosecuted vigorously. Such laws would also violate Mozambique’s Constitution—which guarantees equal rights before the law—and other regional and international human rights instruments that Mozambique has ratified, including the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol).

With the vote this close, we need your help! Please stand with Equality Now, our partners in the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) coalition, along with WLSA Mozambique, Fórum Mulher and other Mozambican NGOs in calling on Mozambique’s Parliament to ensure that all positive changes already made will be approved, and that all provisions that jeopardize the rights and safety of women and girls are removed before the revision to the Penal Code are adopted.

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Join us in urgently calling on the authorities below to demand that:

  • they reject the damaging and discriminatory provisions in the draft Penal Code, and ensure that the exemption for rapists is not re-introduced into the legislation;
  • Mozambique lives up to its domestic, regional and international obligations to protect, enforce, and uphold the fundamental rights of women and girls.

Dra. Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo
President, Assembleia da República
Palácio do Quarto Congresso
Avenida 24 de Julho
Maputo, Moçambique
Fax: +25821400711011; +258 21225179
Email: arm@parlamento.org.mz

Dr. Teodoro Andrade Waty
President, Committee on Legal Affairs Human Rights and Legality of Parliament
Palácio do Quarto Congresso
Avenida 24 de Julho
Maputo, Moçambique
Fax: +25821400711; +258 21408846
Email: sgar@parlamento.org.mz

Maria Benvinda Delfina Levi
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Av. Julius Nyerere 33
Maputo, Moçambique
Fax: +25821494264
Email: benvindalevi@hotmail.com

Dr. Orlando da Graça
Secretary General,
Constitutional Council
Matthew Samson Street Muthemba, 493
P.O. Box 2372
Maputo, Moçambique
Fax: +25821487432
Email:
correiocc@cconstitucional.org.mz

Graça Machel
Former First Lady of Mozambique & South Africa
President of Fundação
para o Desenvolvimento da Comunidade (FDC)
Av. 25 de Setembro, Edifícios Times Square Bloco 2 - 3º andar
Maputo, Moçambique
Email: Vimla@nelsonmandela.org

Letters: 

Dear Speaker/Honorable,

I am deeply concerned about provisions in Mozambique’s new Penal Code, which was approved by Parliament on 11 July 2014 and is now awaiting presidential assent. If approved into law by the President as written, ramifications for women and girls in Mozambique could be devastating, leaving them at greater risk of sexual violence and discrimination.

I am particularly troubled by the damaging provisions in the legislation that define rape in a vague and limited manner, which could make it easier for rapists to escape prosecution; fail to protect women from marital rape; allow relatives of perpetrators of crimes to hinder criminal investigations; and only considers as minors children under the age of 12 in cases of rape. In addition, the hastily adopted Chapter IX on Domestic Violence (Articles 245-257), which contradicts the more progressive and comprehensive 2009 Domestic Violence Act (DVA), would be a major setback towards combatting violence against women.

Mozambique’s Constitution enshrines the fundamental principles of equality, bodily integrity, and access to justice. Further, Mozambique has ratified and domesticated a number of human rights instruments that affirm the State’s responsibility to protect women and girls from sexual violence, and to ensure equal protection under the law. I join Equality Now, their partners through the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) Coalition, along with WLSA Mozambique, Fórum Mulher and other Mozambican NGOs in calling on Mozambican authorities to prevent the enactment of legislation that violates or jeopardizes the rights of women and girls, including their physical safety and integrity.
 
I respectfully urge you to take urgent action and ask the President to not enact the Penal Code, but rather to return it to Parliament to remove the damaging and discriminatory provisions.  I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,