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Assaulting An 'Adulterous' Ex-Wife Doesn't Merit Jail Time, Portuguese Court Says

A Portuguese man convicted of assaulting his ex-wife will face no jail time — after an appeals court, citing the fact that his former wife was "adulterous," and noting that the Bible calls for adulterous women to be put to death, upheld his suspended sentence.

The judges called adultery a "serious attack" on a man's "dignity."

The decision has sparked outrage in Portugal.

According to Esquerda, a news site owned by Portugal's Left Bloc political party, the victim of the violent beating was, indeed, having a brief affair. She decided to end the affair and the other man then told her husband about the relationship. Both men began directing death threats toward the woman, Esquerda writes, citing reporting by the Jornal de Noticias newspaper. Both men attacked her; the scorned former sexual partner kidnapped her, then her husband, who had since divorced her, violently beat her.

The Associated Press has more on the case:

"The [husband] was given a 15-month suspended sentence and a fine of 1,750 euros ($2,000) for using a bat spiked with nails to assault the woman in the street in 2015, leaving her covered in cuts and bruises.

"The prosecutor had argued the sentence was too lenient and asked an appeals court for prison time of 3 years and 6 months. But the appeal judges on Oct. 11 rejected his request."

In their decision, the judges explicitly said the woman's extramarital affair justified leniency toward her attacker. Portugal Residentreports:

"Quoting passages from the Bible, and citing cultures where adulterous women are stoned to death, judges Neto de Moura and Maria Luísa Abrantes ruled that 'the adultery of a woman is a very serious attack on the honour and dignity of (her) man.' ...

"Indeed, the Porto appeal court duo stressed that 'in the Bible, we can read that an adulterous woman should be punished with death.'

"It's a judgement that has sparked outrage over social media - many commentators complaining that it takes the whole issue of gender equality back to the Dark Ages."

In the decision, the judges also cited an 1886 Portuguese law that called for a merely symbolic penalty for any man who kills his wife after finding her committing adultery.

They cited the biblical and legal precedent "to stress that a woman's adultery amounts to conduct which society has always condemned and condemned very strongly," according to an AP translation.

The judges further said the victim's "disloyalty" and "sexual immorality" drove her ex-husband into a depression, which was another factor in favor of leniency.

Reuters reports that a rally is planned to protest the ruling:

"The UMAR Women's Union for Alternative and Response called the verdict in Portugal's second-largest city "revolting" and said it perpetuated "the ideology of victim-blaming".

" 'Evoking the Bible does not combine with the rule of law in our country and discredits the judicial norms,' UMAR said in a statement. ...

"UMAR and the feminist movement Por Todas Nos (For all of Us Women) called a protest rally in downtown Lisbon for Friday. Protests were also called in Porto under the slogan 'Male chauvinism is not justice, but crime.'

"Ultra-orthodox patriarchy - one of the cornerstones of the fascist dictatorship of Antonio Salazar up until the 1974 revolution - still survives in parts of Portugal."

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.