February 28, 2019
By Goncalo Almeida
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal has declared a day of mourning for victims of domestic violence after data showed attackers had murdered 11 women so far this year – the highest number in a decade.
The cabinet set the day for March 7, one day before International Women’s Day, and said government buildings would fly flags at half mast.
Hundreds of activists have taken to the streets in recent weeks calling for more government action and protesting against a number of what they call lenient judgments against attackers.
The government said it was prompted by the mounting tally of deaths, recorded by police.
The number was more than double the same period in 2018, according to the Observatory of Murdered Women, a Portuguese campaign group. In 2017, 12 murders were recorded through the whole year, it added.
“This day is a day when we must not only honor the victims but also renew our purpose to continue this fight and how we can all respond to it,” said Mariana Vieira da Silva, Portugal’s minister for the presidency and administrative modernization.
Protesters say they have been outraged by a number of court rulings that they described as sexist.
“On one hand the government is on a positive path to reduce the problem but on the other hand the justice system seems to be following the opposite direction,” said Maria Jose Magalhaes, president of women’s rights group UMAR.
In 2017 a Portuguese court upheld a light sentence for a woman’s attackers on the grounds they may have been motivated by her adultery.
“We read in the Bible that an adulteress should be punished with death,” the judges in the Porto Court of Appeal wrote. They also referenced the “symbolic sentences” given to men who murdered adulterous wives in Portugal in the late 19th century.
The charity Refuge estimates that two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales – where the combined population is almost six times the size of Portugal’s 10 million.
(Reporting by Goncalo Almeida; Writing by Catarina Demony; Editing by Axel Bugge and Andrew Heavens)