The crushing weight of outrage over judge Neto de Moura’s biblical ruling in a case of domestic violence which saw an unfaithful woman beaten with a nail-spiked club has finally prompted an inquiry.
The superior council of magistrates which initially said it would not intervene has now decided it has no choice.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa joined the gathering storm as various victim support groups throughout the country have called protests.
Marcelo’s input was oblique, but it was enough to ensure that the issue has not been ‘swept away under a carpet’.
The story broke in the Portuguese press last week with no emphasis on the nail-spiked club.
The woman was presented simply as an adulteress who had been lured into a beating by her spurned lover in cahoots with the husband she had cheated on (click here).
And this narrative saw Neto de Moura and his assistant Maria Luísa Arantes basically rule that ‘she got what she deserved’, as adultery was “a very serious attack on a man’s honour and dignity”.
Indignation sparked by the judgement – in which reference was made to passages in the Bible invoking the death penalty for adultery – went viral . It was soon being reported that Neto de Moura had erred on the side of aggressors in a number of other instances.
And then the story got picked up by major international news outlets which revealed the full horrific details.
Said the Washington Post: “About three years ago, a married Portuguese woman began seeing another man. The affair was brief — and after two months, the woman wanted to end it.
“In response, the woman’s former lover turned to her husband, telling him his wife had been unfaithful. The couple divorced. But the two men, both enraged, worked together to plan an attack on the woman.
“In June 2015, the former paramour kidnapped the woman and held her down while the ex-husband beat her viciously with a nail-spiked club, leaving bruises and lashes all over her body.
“After charges were filed in the assault, the ex-husband was given a 15-month suspended sentence and a fine of about $2,000, according to the Associated Press. A prosecutor thought he deserved a harsher sentence, and asked an appeals court in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, for prison time of three years and six months.
“But the appeals judges decided against it.
“Why? Because the judges felt it was somewhat understandable that a husband in a “depressive state” would act out against an ex-wife who had betrayed him”.
In Porto today, the fallout is massive. The appeal courthouse where Neto de Moura presides has been vandalised (the Portuguese flag flying over it burnt, while the Portuguese words for: “Against Repression” were daubed over the walls) – and a ceremony planned to mark the appointment of a new court president has been “limited” to ensure assembled press throngs cannot ask too many questions.
Meantime Correio da Manhã reports that the woman at the centre of the controversy feels “enormously humiliated”.
Other media outlets suggest she has been exhausted by the intense exposure of her case, and is not even sure she will take the matter further in the hope of a more favourable judgement.
A protest rally in Lisbon has been called by UMAR (the women’s union for alternative and response) and feminist movement Por Todas Nos (For all of Us) in Lisbon for tomorrow (Friday), while protests have also been called in Porto under the slogan “Male chauvinism is not justice, but crime”.
Says the UK Guardian in its conclusion: “Ultra-orthodox patriarchy – one of the cornerstones of the fascist dictatorship of António Salazar up until the 1974 revolution – still survives in parts of Portugal”.