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Broken Justice: The Tragic Reality of Domestic Violence in Portugal

Portuguese Justice System's Misery: Fragile Laws and Benevolent Courts.

Maria da Luz was not as fortunate. She succumbed to her husband's stabbings in May 2004.

On that morning, she became one of nearly 500 women killed at the hands of their husbands from that year until 2017. She died in front of her youngest daughter, Cláudia, who was then 12 years old.

Claudia will never forget seeing her mother lying on the floor, surrounded by a pool of blood. She tried to intervene, throwing chairs at her stepfather to make him stop.

She remembers the knives cutting into her mother's body. The murderer stood still and watched when help arrived. The night - when it all began - will last a lifetime within Cláudia.

"I had gone to sleep at a friend's house, and my mother showed up crying. Until then, I had never witnessed anything violent between my stepfather and her," she recalls.

They spent the night away from home and were protected until dawn.

Against others' wishes, but determined to keep the small business, Maria da Luz insisted on returning home and going to work at the small establishment she owned. Cláudia accompanied her, although she told her not to go.

"She had taken over the lease and wanted to keep the business going because she had debts to pay." Inside - hidden - the murderer was waiting for them. "He was in a sort of pantry when he asked my mother to sit next to him. At first, she didn't want to. She was next to him when he took out two knives and started attacking her."

No one on the pedestrian street where the shop was located entered to help, only when her mother "was already on the ground," and Cláudia had been stabbed.

At that moment, she was sure her mother was dead.

She lost hope at the same time she lost her mother. A huge void, the world collapsing around her, and she was in shock, remembering how her mother used to tell her that the diploma was the one thing she couldn't miss.

"After being rescued, they took me to another hospital, for a psychologist to tell me what I already knew: that my mother had died."

A rebellious girl at school, used to fooling around, she went into shock when she heard the news she already knew. "I remember saying, 'Now how am I going to study?!'"

The state granted her a pension of 71 euros and handed her over to her older sister, the "first person who appeared." And Claudia's name joined other statistics; she is one of the orphans of domestic violence.

Just from January to November 20, 2017, data from the Observatory of Murdered Women of the Union of Women Alternative and Response (UMAR) indicate that there were 45 orphans.

Claudia's story sheds light on the deep-seated issues within the Portuguese justice system.

Despite having laws in place to address domestic violence, the reality paints a different picture.

The tragic cases of Maria da Luz and countless others illustrate the fragility of these laws and the leniency of the courts.

The nightmarish experiences of women like Maria da Luz and their children highlight a grave concern - the justice system's failure to provide adequate protection and accountability.

Even in the face of violent crimes, the perpetrators often face minimal consequences, leaving families shattered and victims without justice. The tragic fate of these victims, along with the statistical evidence, underscores the need for comprehensive reform within the Portuguese legal system.

The toll taken by domestic violence goes far beyond physical harm; it leaves lasting scars on survivors and their families.

Children like Claudia are left to grapple with trauma, loss, and a sense of injustice that lingers long after the incidents occur. The inability of the justice system to deliver swift and effective punishment sends a distressing message that violence can go unchecked.

It is imperative for Portugal to address the systemic shortcomings that allow such tragedies to persist. Strengthening laws and enhancing the enforcement of protective measures is crucial to ensuring the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals.

The courts must demonstrate that they are committed to upholding the rights of victims and preventing further instances of domestic violence.

The stories of Maria da Luz, Claudia, and the countless other victims serve as a call to action.

The justice system must rise to the occasion and prove that the lives shattered by domestic violence are not forgotten or dismissed.

Only through a concerted effort to reform and improve the legal framework can Portugal begin to heal its justice system and provide true justice for those who have suffered.


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