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Insults and Attacks Against Women’s Human Rights

 

Published in Outras Vozes nº 28, supplement, November 2009

 

Right of reply published in the newspaper “O País” on 9 February 2009

Mr. Lázaro Mabunda has once again surprised us with an opinion article full of insults, ignorance and lack of respect for human rights. The Movement for Approval of the Law against Domestic Violence and the Human Rights League reacted. The following text was published in the newspaper “O País” on 9 February.

 

On Friday the 30th of January we were surprised by an opinion article by Lazaro Mabunda, published in the newspaper “O País” and entitled “These chicks are crazy, Ta Basily”. Although we are somewhat used to him by now, given earlier articles demonstrating his misogyny, intolerance and utter ignorance, this time he really went too far, surpassing all acceptable levels of propriety, resorting to insults as a form of disqualification! This is the third time that we have reacted to articles by Lázaro Mabunda who has demonstrated repeatedly both his ignorance and his disrespect for human rights, and we regret that this type of writing still receives space in the newspaper “O País”, for which we have the greatest respect. We request the editor to publish this letter, commenting on statements in that article about gender equality as a condition for women to be able to enjoy their full citizenship rights.

Lázaro Mabunda starts by expressing his solidarity with Ta Basily who, according to the media, is some one who attacked his heavily pregnant wife and some friends who were visiting her. He accuses “feminist organizations” of using this case to involve a public personality, in order to pressure for approval of the bill on domestic violence, and giving the impression that the young artist is being treated unfairly. This is the starting point but, as the article proceeds, there are incoherent notions about the roles of men and women in the family, about culture and how domestic violence should be regarded. We would like to emphasize the following.

Under current legislation, the Penal Code, physical aggression is a crime, irrespective of whether it involves strangers or people with marital or family links. Article 365, updated by law 8/2002, applies mainly to cases of domestic violence, as it hands down stronger penalties for crimes committed by a father, mother, children, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, husband or wife. So it is not the bill against domestic violence that criminalizes aggression against women in a marital relationship, because it already exists! The purpose of the bill is to guarantee a better legal framework, more celerity in resolving cases that go to court, better medical assistance, support for victims of violence and education to break this cycle of violence, starting with young people, and challenging current structures that guarantee inequality of power between men and women in the family and in society.

Existing legislation also covers other forms of violence, such as insults and slander, crimes that under the bill on domestic violence are considered psychological violence.

Consequently, under criminal law (the Penal Code) and the principles of equality guaranteed by the Constitution, it is a crime to attack a citizen, male or female, irrespective of what the aggressor subsequently claims. In other words, a victim can never be guilty of the assault of which he/she is the victim. So the issues that Mr. Lázaro Mabunda raises are totally irrelevant under the law! Indeed, what is very clear, is that the author of the article has some deeply rooted beliefs that he defends at any cost, namely: i) in a marriage, the man is the “head of the household” and the “owner”; ii) in a marriage, it is legitimate for a man to control the friendships established by his wife, he can decide who she sees and who she does not; iii) when she disobeys, a man has the right to assault his wife or companion.

This means that Lázaro Mabunda should attack the root cause, our fundamental law, the Constitution, because that is where the subversion starts, when it states explicitly in article 36, “men and women are equal before the law in all fields of political, economic, social and cultural life”. Because the truth is that he does not believe in the values that are the foundations of our citizenship; he does not believe that all human beings are equal; he does not believe in every citizen’s right to respect and a good name. In short, he does not believe in democracy! For this reason Lázaro Mabunda’s article not only defends domestic violence against women, it also justifies discrimination and inequality.

He also mentions the number of complaints against violence. As to this, because it does not add anything new, we would merely draw his attention to an article entitled “Domestic violence: denying the manipulation of numbers”, published as a right of reply in the newspaper O País in response to Lázaro Mabunda’s article of 2 March 2007 “Domestic violence. Bill is inappropriate” (see here).

Finally, Lázaro Mabunda talks a lot about seeking the “causes” of violence and that domestic violence is “structural”, but his reasoning is again superficial. If he were honest, he would have found that unequal power between men and women is the cause of domestic violence. What other explanation can there be for the fact that many, many women suffer persistent and constant violence by their partners and think this is normal and they should just put up with it? In a world of equality, no-one would attack anyone and everyone would be treated with dignity and the respect that human beings deserve.

No matter how much the journalist in question wants to stick to the notion that domestic violence is a false problem invented by institutions, reality is different and he would know that if, in the name of journalistic rigour, he had made a minimum effort to understand the phenomenon itself. Violence is a social problem with consequences that are as real as they are tragic, as any professional in a health unit, in a police station or in a support and counselling organization, people who deal with victims of violence on a daily basis, would explain.
In conclusion, we would like to make very clear our repudiation of the publication of opinions that insult and attack the human rights of women, and that also attack the principles that guide society and are laid down in our laws.

 

For Gender Equality and Justice!
Fight Domestic Violence!

 

Signed:

Movement for Approval of the Law against Domestic Violence
Mozambican Human Rights League

 

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WLSA Moçambique

 

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Mulher e Lei na África Austral - Moçambique