After three years in which domestic violence has become “Portugal’s most worrying type of crime” leading to thousands of complaints and claiming as many as 100 lives, the government has finally issued new get-tough legislation to protect battered women.
In an in-depth analysis of the raft of measures, Correio da Manhã explains victims of domestic violence will now have the right to social housing, fast-tracked social benefits and priority within the job market.
It is the third change to the law since it came into effect in 2009, and it comes in yet another year where women’s deaths at the hands of their partners, ex-partners or jealous lovers have been splashed across the nation’s news media.
Due to come into effect on October 3, the law also allows for the creation of a domestic violence database and a special unit – made up of multiple entities – designed to retrospectively analyse murders “that occur in the context of domestic violence”.
For victim support organisations, the changes could not have come sooner.
Last year, Leonor Valente Monteiro of Porto’s Projecto Criar told us:“We hear terrible stories all the time, and to be honest the way domestic violence is dealt with is key.
“To give you an example, it took one woman six visits to the police station before anyone took her complaints seriously. The last time, she was barefoot and in her pyjamas. It was only then that the police took any notice of what she was saying. She had taken huge risks each time going to make complaints against her husband, and five of those times no-one had helped her”.
In the Algarve 17-year-old Bruna Nunes was found battered to death on waste ground last December after she had gone to police to complain about her violent stepfather. Many locals have told the Resident that they feel it was the way Bruna’s complaints were dealt with that led to her death. Had she received support instantly, it might never have happened.
Thus, these new changes are designed to avoid many more tragedies and see battered women at last protected properly by the State.
CM explains that fast-tracked social benefits will vary, but “will not be pegged to earnings of any other member of the family unit”.
Battered women will also get benefits for their children, whether minors or young adults, as well as preference in professional training programmes, “in conditions of privacy”.
Last year, Portugal’s PSP and GNR police forces registered a staggering 27,317 complaints over crimes of domestic violence, writes CM successfully seeing 618 perpetrators sent to jail.
In 2008, only 13 men were jailed for domestic violence, whereas by June this year, that number had risen to 591.
Nonetheless, 43 women were murdered in 2014, 33 died in 2013 (with another 32 battered to the extent that police charged assailants with attempted murder) and this year, the number that have died is already nudging towards 30.