Tanzania: Equality Now asks Mozambican parliament to reject discriminatory bill

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - International women’s rights organisation Equality Now and partner groups Thursday called on Mozambique’s parliament to reject discriminatory provisions in the draft penal code that would foster a culture of violence and discrimination if passed as written.

The draft legislation, which would make it easier for rapists to escape prosecution, only considers children under the age of 12 as minors in cases of rape and allows relatives of criminals to get away with tampering with criminal investigations.

According to Equality Now, Mozambican NGOs are also concerned that a provision from earlier drafts of the legislation, which allows a rapist to escape punishment by marrying his victim, might be re-introduced into the current draft before the vote.

“The vote is mere weeks away and Mozambican NGOs are asking for our help to take action today by calling on Mozambique’s parliament to protect the rights of women and girls and remove all harmful and discriminatory provisions in the draft penal code,” said Equality Now in a statement made available to PANA here.

“While progressive revisions have been made in the proposed draft (Penal Code Review Bill), damaging provisions in the legislation remain,” the women’s rights body said, citing vague and limited definitions of rape, which could make it easier for rapists to escape prosecution and fail to protect women from marital rape.

Another damaging provision remaining allows relatives of perpetrators of all crimes to escape prosecution for hindering an investigation or evidence tampering, worsening impunity for crimes of sexual violence.

Equality Now also pointed out as a defect of the code where it defines 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.

“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,” the rights body said.

In its view, 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).

NGOs standing with Equality Now on this issue include Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) coalition, Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) Mozambique and Fórum Mulher.
-0- PANA AR/SEG 15May2014

15 may 2014 08:52:35

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