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Angola: An increase in domestic violence or only in awareness?

According to various media outlets, rates of domestic violence in Angola have increased considerably. But, have the numbers actually increased or is it the case that there is greater awareness of such crimes? Apparently, in 2008 there were about 640 cases recorded, 424 of which were resolved through professional counseling while the rest had to be settled in the courts. These numbers are higher than the 2007 statistics which, as mentioned above, reflects the fact that most victims fear informing on their aggressors to authorities. It is a good sign: by reporting more, Angolan women are a step closer to the end of abuse – either perpetrated by their spouses or boyfriends.

As expected, the stories are sad. Sometimes they end well – when the abuser is put behind bars and the woman set free from years of torture and physical abuse. Unfortunately, some cases still end in disaster. Angola is full of stories of women who have died at the hands of those who they had trusted and loved. These men, in turn, believe they own their wives or girlfriends. In a fit of jealousy they beat them, invariably to death.

20 year old housekeeper Nely had more luck. Diário da África blog [African Diary, pt] tells us a little of her story:

“Hoje pela manhã, ela tirou fotos das costas, dos braços e das pernas, tomados por manchas roxas e negras, resultado do espancamento a que foi submetida pelo ex-marido. Armado com um pedaço de madeira, Amâncio (é este o nome do criminoso) aliviou as suas frustrações com o universo em cima da Nely. A sessão de tortura começou por volta das 6h da manhã quando ela recebeu o telefonema do vizinho que queria saber se ela pegaria carona para o trabalho com ele. O ex-marido-espancador, num acesso de fúria e ciúmes, aplicou-lhe a surra”.
Não obstante a sova, o agressor foi apresentar queixa de Nely à esquadra, acusando-a de o ter cortado com uma faca. Eis o relato: “ (Ele) cortou-se com uma faca durante a confusão e depois, ainda foi à polícia prestar queixa contra a Nely. Ela caminha com dificuldade por causa de uma paulada que levou num dos joelhos. Nely prestará queixa contra o espancador na Organização da Mulher Angolana – OMA, entidade ligada ao governo de Angola que defende os interesses das mulheres. Eu, de minha parte, faço votos de que esse Amâncio passe uma temporada atrás das grades”.

“This morning, she had pictures taken of her back, arms and legs, they are covered with black and purple bruises resulting from the drubbing received from her ex-husband. Armed with a stick, Amâncio (this is the offender's name) eased his frustrations with the world on Nely. The torture session began at around 6 am when she received a phone call from a neighbour who wanted to know if he could give her a lift to work. The beater-ex-husband in a fit of fury and jealousy, beat her.
Despite the drubbing, the aggressor went to complain about Nely to the police, accusing her of having cut him with a knife. Here's the story: “(He) cut himself with a knife during the confusion and then went to the police to complain against Nely. She is walking with difficulty because of a hit to one of her knees. Nely will  complain about the aggression through the Organization of Angolan Women – OMA, an organization linked to the Angolan government that defends women's rights. I, for one, hope that Amâncio serves time behind bars.”

Unfortunately, as happens to some degree in other places in this world, Angola has no strong legal apparatus to specifically address domestic violence, enable these cases to be monitored and lead to the possible arrest of the offender. Nely's husband, Amâncio, has been released and has promised to continue his wave of terror. He has destroyed all her documents and sent their daughter to be raised by his family in São Tomé and Príncipe [pt]:

“Nada aconteceu ao ex-marido. Foi embora tranquilamente, depois de ter dado uma surra com um pedaço de madeira em Nely. E ainda ameaça voltar. Agora é torcer para que a delegacia da mulher funcione. Que abra uma processo contra esse sujeito, que a justiça o condene pelas sessões de espancamento e ele cumpra a sua pena na cadeia. A evolução do caso é que preocupa. Começou com os gritos dele contra Nely, depois uns safanões, depois surras, daqueles de ela não conseguir se levantar do chão. Agora apareceram um pedaço de pau e uma faca. O que virá a seguir?”

“Nothing happened to the ex-husband. He left quietly, after having beaten Nely with a stick. And he threatens to come back. Now we hope that the women's police station will work. That they file a case against this guy, that justice is done for these beating sessions and he serves his sentence in jail. The evolution of the case is what concerns [us]. It began with him screaming at Nely, then there were some punches, then beating, the type that would leave her unable to get up from the floor. Now there are a stick and a knife. What next?”

Probably death, hers or the aggressor's. There are countless cases of women who have killed their partners in order to survive. It should be noted that there are also reports of women abusing men. These are few, but they exist. Meanwhile, a bill on domestic violence is to be drafted soon, which, together with various activities to raise awareness of the issue, will offer a new direction to Angolan women.

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