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Direitos Humanos / 26/03/2021

Portugal must strive to combat racism and violence against women, warns European Commissioner

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Portugal must strive to combat racism and violence against women, warns European Commissioner

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Legal definitions of crimes of racism and rape must be changed. Violence against women remains alarming.

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, calls on the Portuguese authorities to commit themselves more resolutely to combating the increase in racism in the country, as well as preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

In a memo published this Wednesday, the commissioner expresses concern at the increase in the number of crimes motivated by racial hatred, as well as hate speech, particularly targeting Roma, people of African descent and people perceived as foreigners in Portugal. And recommends the implementation of a comprehensive action plan against racism and discrimination, urging the authorities to firmly and publicly condemn all manifestations of hate speech while strongly urging politicians to refrain using or tolerating racist rhetoric. .

Welcoming the measures taken to improve the legal and institutional framework against discrimination, the Commissioner invites the Portuguese authorities to continue their efforts in order to ensure that civil, administrative and criminal legislation is in line with international standards. Dunja Mijatović further recommends that the police and prosecutors adopt a broader definition of the crime of racism and investigate rigorously and impartially all incidents of this type, not allowing these investigations to end.

Complementary efforts are also needed to tackle racist prejudices against people of African descent, inherited the colonial past and the time of slavery. "It is important to be aware of the historically repressive structures of colonialism, of racist prejudices ingrained in society and of its ramifications until today," says the commissioner, stressing that school curricula can contribute a lot to this awareness.

Praising the initiatives aimed at combating discrimination against Roma, Dunja Mijatović recommends, however, the intensification of these efforts, considering that prejudice remains widespread in Portuguese society and present in the speech of some political leaders.

Racism in the police

Racism in the security forces continues to raise deep concern. "The Portuguese authorities must apply a zero-tolerance policy towards any manifestation of racism by the police," she warns. Here, the recommendations include improving the training of agents in the field of human rights, as well as recruitment procedures and ion criteria, so that minority groups are more represented among the staff, at all hierarchical levels. The Commissioner also recommends the creation of an independent mechanism to examine all complaints related to ill-treatment attributed to the police.

The same European official welcomes the efforts of the Portuguese authorities to eliminate domestic violence, as well as her work to make gender equality a reality. Nevertheless, violence against women continues to be a phenomenon that registers alarming levels in Portugal.

The authorities must therefore take additional measures to evolve mentalities and make society aware of the fact that violence against women, namely domestic violence, constitutes a serious violation of human rights. The Commissioner calls on the authorities to take measures to ensure that crimes of domestic violence and sexual crimes, including rape, are properly investigated and punished and that the penalties are proportionate to the seriousness of these crimes, that is, sufficiently dissuasive.

The increase in training should be extended to magistrates and, in general, to all those who offer support services to women victims of violence. Dunja Mijatović also welcomes the measures recently taken to ensure that children who witness domestic violence are considered victims and receive the protection they need.

Finally, the commissioner recommends that the authorities change the definition of violation in the Penal Code again, ensuring that it is based entirely on the absence of the victim's free consent.

In response to this memorandum, the Portuguese Government recalls that it is preparing a national plan to combat racism and discrimination that will run until 2025, in line with the recent action plan that the European Union has prepared. The public consultation period for this document should start until the end of the month.

Investment in combating the phenomenon also involves scientific knowledge, adds the Executive: the Foundation for Science and Technology creates u a line of research to support projects on the impact of the pandemic on incitement to hatred and violence, with 50 applications received

On the other hand, the State Budget for 2021 provides for the creation of an independent observatory for hate speech, racism and xenophobia. The response to the European Commission includes several public interventions by the Secretary of State for Equality to condemn this phenomenon.

With regard to domestic violence, the Government points out several measures approved between 2019 and 2020 and also the efforts it has made for security forces, magistrates and professionals in sectors such as education to work in partnership. At the beginning of January, a competition was launched to reinforce psychological and psychotherapeutic support for children and young people victims of domestic violence treated or received at the National Support Network for Victims of Domestic Violence.

With an allocation of 2.78 million euros, the tender opened by the Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality comes under the Operational Social Inclusion and Employment Program and is designed to meet the needs of specialized support services, privileging approaches psychotherapeutic approaches focused on trauma, with the name of Psychological Support Responses for children and young people who are victims of this phenomenon.

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