A total of nine women were killed last month by their intimate partners, which is already a third of the entire total recorded for the whole of last year.

The long-standing debate on how authorities could better deal with cases of domestic violence came to fore again this week, when the estranged partner of a woman, killed his mother-in-law in a gruesome attack before abducting his two-year old daughter who he later killed.

On Tuesday, police found the lifeless body of the girl in the boot of a car after she had reportedly been suffocated and strangled by her father who then committed suicide at the scene, more than 170 kilometres from the scene of her initial abduction.

Media reports this week later indicated that the man was known to police, and they had recommended action be taken against him following a series of complaints by his wife.

But as the crime was deemed to be a semi-public one, she was asked to press charges. When she later declined, the case was dismissed by prosecutors, who could not proceed due to a lack of evidence, despite the concerns expressed by police for the safety of the family of the man.

This has led to calls for authorities to be able to act unilaterally when there is evidence pointing to a risk of physical and/or emotional harm being caused.

The latest wave of murders, with more than two women killed every week in Portugal by family members since the beginning of the year, has seen the number of domestic violence murders now rise to 512 since 2004, according to figures compiled by an association representing the victims of domestic violence.

The State Secretary of Equality meanwhile, has said this week that these figures are “worrying and disturbing” and has called for renewed efforts to combat domestic violence in Portugal.

“We are faced with an emergency situation”, said Rosa Monteira in Coimbra, adding that “sustained action without any tolerance should be shown to aggressors”.

The State Secretary also believes that more can be done to educate people and that the battle against domestic violence is one in which all society should be actively involved in.

She continued to reveal that there are currently 19 projects across the country that are dealing with the issue of domestic violence among young couples, where similar disconcerting figures are being reported.

Another problem faced in combating domestic violence is the low number of cases that actually are presented in front of a judge.
According to the national safety report for 2017, of the almost 30,000 complaints lodged, only 15 percent were tabled for prosecution.

In related news, a judge who in 2015 quoted the Bible to justify being lenient on domestic violence, was this week issued with a reprimand by his peers which he says he will appeal.

During the case over which he presided, the judge handed a man a 15-month suspended sentence and a fine of 1,750 euros for using a bat spiked with nails to assault a woman in the street, leaving her covered in cuts and bruises.

The prosecutor had argued the sentence was too lenient and asked an appeal court for prison time of three years and six months, but Judge Neto de Moura rejected his request.

In a written ruling, he expressed “some understanding” for the attacker, saying a woman’s adultery is “a very serious offence against a man’s honour and dignity”.

He noted the Bible says an adulterous woman should be punished by death and also cited a 1886 Portuguese law that gave only symbolic sentences to men who killed their wives for suspected adultery.

The judge at the appeal court in Porto, wrote that they were making reference to the Bible and an old law “to stress that a woman’s adultery amounts to conduct which society has always condemned and condemned very strongly”.