Oxfam partners in Mozambique are celebrating the initial approval of a domestic violence bill by the country's parliament, an important milestone in the protection of women's rights in the country.
The domestic violence bill, championed by a coalition of women's organizations, seeks to make domestic violence a crime, calls for increased penalties for offenders, and places an obligation on the state to assist victims.
"This is a very important step to protect women from violence and ensure that this is seen as a public crime and not just a private affair," said Professor Isabel Casimiro, president of the board of the Women's Forum and a member of the commission that drafted the bill. "Hospitals, courts, and the police will also have a duty to act and help victims of domestic violence," she said.
"Our research shows that many cases of domestic violence are not reported and there is often no action when they are reported. As a result, women have no protection or support at present. An important aspect of the proposed law is that anyone, not only the victim, can report a case of domestic violence," said Casimiro.
At present there is no law that specifically covers domestic violence in Mozambique and it is currently dealt with as assault under the 19th century penal code inherited from when Mozambique was a Portuguese colony.
Since 2001, Oxfam has supported the Women's Coalition that has pushed for legal reform to advance the rights of women in Mozambique. The coalition played a key role in lobbying for the 2004 Family Law which provides for a wide range of women's rights. The six organizations that make up the coalition continue to support the implementation of the new laws and bring awareness of the legal rights they provide to women and girls throughout the country.
"This is a great achievement for the women of Mozambique," said Michael Chimedza, Oxfam America's program officer in Mozambique. "It shows that our partners have become strong actors in pushing legal reform that promotes the rights of women, as this process took them a shorter time than the Family Law."
The bill was passed unanimously and will now be considered by a committee before a final vote in parliament in mid-July.