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“It is an attack on us as women,” protester Aulzira Camacho told AFP.
“Marry the rapist? No!” read a banner carried by another protester.
The “marriage effect” clause in Mozambique sees convicted rapists slapped with a five-year suspended sentence if they marry their victims. It stipulates that the perpetrator should stay married to the victim for at least five years.
Though it had fallen into disuse, the clause has been retained in a new legislation replacing the colonial Portuguese penal code of 1886, which is currently before Parliament.
The new penal code was rushed through parliament in December, where it was approved in a preliminary vote and it is now under discussion by special parliamentary groups before going back to the assembly for a final vote.
The draft code also terms rape in marriage as adultery rather than an offence.
“We now find four or five-year old children being raped on a daily basis…either by parents or neighbors or other people,” the country’s Human Rights League head, Alice Mabota, was alarmed at current rape figures.
Activists in Mozambique are also fighting to change the way rape is defined under the new code, which classifies only vaginal penetration under the crime.
They fear victims of other forms of rape like oral and anal penetration would be denied justice.