Is Luana Piovani correct in criticizing the laws protecting women in Portugal?

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In the last week, the Portuguese laws that deal with domestic violence, custody of minor children and payment of child support became a reason for discussion and controversy in Brazil.

The person responsible for making Lusitanian family law cross the Atlantic was actress Luana Piovani, who published a video on social networks with harsh criticism of the protection of women in Portugal.

The artist has lived in the European country for four years with her three children and has been having public disagreements with her ex-husband, surfer Pedro Scooby, regarding raising the children and paying expenses.

“A woman in Portugal is not worth ten cents. I say that because domestic violence here does not go to jail”, said Piovani, who amended a criticism of the payment of alimony.

The Portuguese Penal Code typifies domestic violence as a crime, and one of the punishments provided for by law is precisely the imprisonment of the aggressors. In many cases, however, convicts end up failing to serve their sentence. “In Portugal, when a judge determines a sentence of less than five years in prison, the processes can be suspended. The person is convicted, but may not go to jail”, says lawyer Mayra Maltz, specializing in family law in Portugal and in Brazil.

“There are, of course, conditions and requirements that need to be met. You need to appear frequently in court, and there are coercive measures and an obligation to keep your distance from the victim”, she says. “But there is a feeling of impunity, because here most cases of this type have suspended sentences.”

Portuguese lawyer Marta Costa, specialist in family law, points out that the possibility of suspending prison is not exclusive to cases involving domestic violence. “The possibility exists, but it will depend on several factors. If it is the first time there has been violence or if it is a recurrence, for example, or even if there was an agreement with the Public Ministry”, she says.

The professional recalls that, according to Portuguese law, domestic violence is a public crime, which means that anyone can report it and that the criminal procedure does not depend on the presentation of a formal complaint by the victim. “This demonstrates the importance of the issue for legislators.”

Although Portuguese law determines that victims of domestic violence must be preserved and heard under special conditions when they make their complaints, there are many reports of a lack of reception in police stations, especially in smaller cities. A complaint that is also frequent in Brazil.

There are, on the other hand, some reference initiatives. This is the case of Espaço Júlia, a reception center in Lisbon named after a 77-year-old woman murdered by her husband, in a crime that shocked the country. In some cases, victims also receive an electronic device that works as a panic button, to be activated in case of danger. The device is directly connected to the police authorities, which speeds up the process.

In her outburst on social networks, Piovani also addressed the issue of alimony, the lack of payment of which is considered a crime in Portugal, with punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment —this Monday (9), the actress published on Instagram that Scooby paid the part of the pension that was missing for the three children. Although these sanctions are foreseen in the law, Costa says that the arrest of debtors does not usually happen, mainly because ex-spouses are not in the habit of making this type of request.

“I’ve been a family law lawyer for almost 20 years and I only work in that area. Even so, I’ve never had a client who had applied for a prison sentence or a fine”, says the lawyer.

In the video that went viral, the actress also stated that lawyers could advise her ex-husband to ask for custody of the children, now shared. To this end, according to her, Scooby could argue that the actress unduly exposes children on social networks, something unusual in Portugal, where concern for children’s privacy and children’s image rights is more present. “If he comes in here [na Justiça]I think he ends up getting custody of the children because of this talk about me exposing my children.”

In Maltz’s assessment, the loss of custody of the children is a very difficult scenario. “In Portugal, and in Brazil as well, you can’t take custody of a mother so easily. Only in really serious cases, with proof of mistreatment, abandonment and other very serious things.”

The lawyer claims, however, that women who resort to justice to assert their rights are often victims of moral judgment. “In any area, it doesn’t matter which one, women will always be questioned, because stereotypes rain down. When a woman seeks her rights, she is the vengeful one, the crazy one, the repressed one. It’s always a via crucis”, she says.

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