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

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

In June 2014, Mozambique is set to enact a new penal code that would foster a culture of violence and discrimination if passed as currently written. While progressive revisions have been made in the proposed draft (Penal Code Review Bill), damaging  provisions  in the legislation 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 perpetrators of all crimes 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)

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 right before the vote.

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, which Mozambique has ratified, including the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol).

Please stand with Equality Now, our partners in the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) coalition, and WLSA Mozambique, Fórum Mulher and other Mozambican NGOs in calling on Mozambique’s Parliament to reject the discriminatory provisions in the draft Penal Code.

Letters will be sent in Portuguese. View the English translations here.

Letter #1

Maria Benvinda Delfina Levi

Minister of Justice

Dr. Orlando da Graça

Secretary General, Constitutional Council

Graça Machel

Former First Lady of Mozambique & South Africa

To learn more about the campaign & for a list of full contact information for the government officials above, see: