30 May 2014

Mozambique: Severest Punishment Demanded for Sex Offenders

There is a genuine lack of disrepair or ignorance on the part of Mozambican police, hospitals and government in dealing with the country's problem of sexual abuse, which has increasingly been emerging as a disgrace to society. Raped women and children, who know little or nothing about what to do in case of rape, are taken to health facilities late often at their own peril and health centers do not attend to the victims adequately. Although its implementation is mandatory, the Medical Assistance Protocol for Victims of Sexual Violence is being completely ignored.

Individuals who resort to violence and physical threats against women and minors remain unpunished partly because the government does not consider these actions to be as serious as crimes of kidnapping and robbery. Case in point, in 2013 in Boane district in Maputo province, two individuals repeatedly raped a 46-year-old woman when she arrived home around 10PM. They surrounded the woman, took her cellphone and other valuable items and then humiliated her. After the heinous act, they entered her home and stole more items. They were arrested and released for this offense, but later jailed for committing other crimes.

There has never been any public trial or severe penalty given as result of sexual assault.

Like other similar situations where cases disappear from court records or simply are forgotten, until present day this woman continues to fight for justice. This also raises concerns regarding the delays in case processing. The revision of the Penal Code, which is to be discussed by the Mozambican Parliament on June 17th, falls short from being a law that aims to fully protect rape victims.

Article 218 (violation) explains that "someone who has sexual intercourse with any other person, against his or her will, by means of physical violence, intimidation, or deception, which does not constitute seduction, or being the victim private of use of reason, or of the senses, commits the crime of rape and shall be punished with imprisonment of two to eight years".

Maria Jose Arthur, from WLSA Mozambique, told the @Verdade that, in addition to police, health technicians are not trained to treat sexually abused patients. The new punishment for rape is less than the punishment applied to certain types of crimes against property.

"Article 273, about simple theft, foresees a punishment from eight to twelve years for those who steal an amount exceeding 800 minimum wages.

Here you can see the priority given to the right to legal protection.

Priority is given to property at the expense of physical, moral and psychological integrity in cases of sexual violation. We propose to increase the time of imprisonment".

Furthermore, although Parliament says that articles that violate the honor of women and children who are victims of forced intercourse were removed from the Penal Code not all forms of sexual violation are included. Specifically, the replacement of the word "intercourse" by "coitus" covers sexual relations for vaginal and anal, but excludes oral penetration and the introduction of foreign objects, which have become increasingly common in reports that arrive at Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the police.

Maria Arthur believes that there is the impression that rape is less serious than theft and that society still considers sexual assault as normal, even though some cases, although scarce compared to women, involve male victims, especially minors. "There are physical and psychological consequences that cause trauma for the rest of these peoples=E2=80=99 lives= and they're being ignored."

Employer rapes and impregnates an adolescent

The abuse of child labor in some parts of the country has subjected children to successive violations of their rights. Such is the case of 19 year old Nora. Nora worked as a maid in a residence somewhere in Nampula city. The girl was raped by her own employer when she was 15 years old and became pregnant. Even now, the employer refuses to acknowledge the child.

Nora is the daughter of poor parents. Her mother also works as a maid and her father is a simple painter. Due to her family financial difficulties, she was taken to the residence of a couple in order to care for their newborn child. In return, the girl would be given a roof over her head and the opportunity to study. This happened in 2007. During the first two years, the living conditions were optimal, but things changed later when Nora was in grade 5 at Ceremica Elementary School, on outskirts of Nampula. Her employer, whom she called uncle, began to behave strangely.

According to Nora, the employer ogled her and sometimes humiliated her, saying that she squandered the food that he had bought to sustain his family. "You're consuming my flour", he said and implicitly asked for something in return.

After some time, the employer went on to invade the room where the girl spent her nights. The situation became routine and, later, he began to rape Nora. From this point on, Nora never lived at peace again in the house. Nora was sexually abused nearly every nightly visit, however, for fear of retaliation and shame of the trial that the society would put her through, she remained silent.

The consequences of these acts began to emerge later. First, she felt depressed and then she thought of taking her own life. Since she did not press charges, her employer=E2=80=99s intrusions and her own emotions intensified over time. "I was very sad. One time when I went to visit my mother, she asked me what was going on. Out of fear and shame I couldn't tell her what was happening. I only said that everything was fine," she said.

Months passed and Nora became pregnant by her employer. Shocked by the news, the teenager wanted to end her life, firstly, because she didn't feel ready to be a mother. Secondly, she was still in fifth grade and was afraid to have a child without a father. She did not want to have to face her reality in front of her schoolmates, friends and, above all, the general public. On the other hand, the girl didn't want her parents to relive the shame of having grandchildren abandoned by their children, which happened with her two older sisters.

Nora ended up abandoning her studies. According to Nora, it no longer made sense to continue studying. Similarly, she said she had wanted to leave her job, but she didn't have the courage to tell the employer's wife her motives for leaving since they had a good working relationship.

Nora confesses that she tried to get an abortion, but it was not possible. Her belly grew and eventually the employer's wife and her parents discovered that she was pregnant. Unwilling to continue living with the teenager, the employer sent her away. "The wife didn't want to live with me because she thought I was pregnant from someone whose whereabouts were unknown," she said.

Nora had no other choice but to return to her parents' home just a few meters from the residence where she worked. Her parents received the news of her pregnancy with displeasure, but she was met with open arms.

After her parents took her in a more complicated phase of her life began. Her parents wanted to know who the father of the child was, but Nora said she had no knowledge of him.

On July 11th, Nora gave birth to a girl at the 25 de Setembro Health Center in Nampula city. Even after the birth of her daughter, named of Nafiza, her parents relentlessly asked who was the baby's father. As the time went on, Nafiza began showing similar features to that of Nora's former employer. Nora finally admitted the truth to her parents who immediately sought out their neighbor to talk about the matter. When they reached his house they asked him to assume responsibility for the child but he refused.

The young mother struggles to provide for her child. She did not have clothes or food for her daughter. She did not produce breast milk and the only alternative was purchasing formula. Her parents are unemployed also. Nora admits she spends much of her time crying. She said she accepted her suffering as a single mother and never reported the case to authorities. Her daughter was registered under her grandfather's name who offered shelter to the young mother and child.

Nora dropped out of school at grade 5 and even today she is not ready to go back. After more than four years have passed Nora assured us that she will never allow her daughter to call the man that raped her father.

Child raped in Triunfo

An 11-year-old, whose identity we have omitted, was sexually assaulted by two individuals identified by the names of Almeida and Edson, 20 and 19 years old respectively, on Monday evening, May 19, in Triunfo, in the capital of Mozambique. However, by the time of @Verdad's most recent edition, the girl had not yet undergone medical examinations.

The minor's mother told @Verdade that people who had abused her daughter live near her residence. One of the young men, who answers to the name Almeida, was considered a friend of the family and gave tutored the girl.

At the time of the crime the victim's mother was not at home.

The victim said that Almeida called her to his home for the purpose of giving her some advice for an upcoming school assignment. When she arrived, she was pointed to a room presumed to be belonging to the rapist and to ld that is where she could work on her schoolwork. Suspecting nothing, the girl began to enter the room and saw an unknown young man sitting on the bed.

Because she did not know the man, the girl became frightened and refused to enter. However, the rapists grabbed her, covered her mouth, dragged her inside and threatened to kill her if she screamed or if she told anyone what would happen from that moment on. The girl was confident in her report to @Verdade that her rapists were intoxicated.

After the crime had been committed, Almeida and Edson abandoned the child, bloody and writhing in pain and fled. Around 9PM, she dragged herself back to her house and tried to hide the case to her parents.

However, her bloody clothes caught the attention of parents. They contacted the police, but the investigation only started the following morning and it culminated with the arrest of the two accused. @Verdade did not have permission to gather the testimonies of the rapists but the police had no doubt that the two young men were guilty and therefore would be punished.

Man rapes his sister in Zona Verde

On Wednesday, May 14, in block 21 of Zona Verde, in the municipality of Matola, a nine-year-old minor was sexually violated by her own 40 year old brother.

The victim was subjected to medical tests three days later, but the clothes she was wearing on the day of the crime had already been washed, which violates the Medical Assistance Protocol for Victims of Sexual Violence. However, the tests haven't proven whether or not the case was in fact rape because the girl was not taken to the hospital in a timely manner.

After the crime, the child went to a market located near their residence and a group of ladies suspected that she had been raped because of she was doubled over with pain in her genitals. When she was questioned the girl openly confessed that her brother forced her to go to sleep with him everyday. "He threatened me not to scream and said I shouldn't tell anyone" she explained.

Despite the outrage, some neighbors chose not to take the case to the police allegedly because they feared their neighborhood would be disgraced. In fact, some community members tried to prevent @Verdade from interviewing the victim because, according to them, it was a private issue and not of the public interest. However, @Verdade reporter contacted the police precinct of T3 neighborhood in Matola. The alleged rapist was arrested which made his relatives threaten to expel the girl from home, accusing her of lying about the incident and later he was released.

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