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Angola: Situation of women victims of domestic violence, including legislation and the availability of protection and support services (2005 - October 2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 1 November 2007
Citation / Document Symbol AGO102563.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Angola: Situation of women victims of domestic violence, including legislation and the availability of protection and support services (2005 - October 2007), 1 November 2007, AGO102563.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


In a 2006 statement to the 51st Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women Angola's Vice-Minister of Family and Promotion of Women, Ana Paula Sacramento, said that domestic violence had "reached worrying proportions" (Angola 28 Feb. 2006). In 2007, Sacramento reiterated that Angola's domestic violence rate is "very worrying," adding that the rate varies from region to region (ANGOP July 23 2007).

Donald Steinberg, former United States (US) ambassador to Angola, stated in a feature article that "the end of the civil war [in Angola] unleashed a new era of violence against women" (PeaceWomen 25 Apr. 2007). Steinberg, who is also the Vice-President for Multilateral affairs and head of the New York office of the International Crisis Group (ICG), also commented there was a "dramatic rise" in the rate of domestic violence following the return of male ex-combatants to their communities (ibid.). Likewise, in a 2005 report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that domestic violence in Angola was "widespread." In a 2007 report, HRW states that domestic and sexual violence in the country increased over the course of 2006. Similarly, Freedom House reports that "spousal abuse is common" in Angola (2007). The international non-governmental organization Search for Common Ground (SFCG) states that the prevalence of domestic violence in Angola is "one of the most acute sources of tension and conflict since the end of the war" (Sept. 2005). SFCG has headquarters in the United States and Brussels and addresses conflict transformation in 17 countries around the world (SFCG n.d.).


Basic civil rights are constitutionally guaranteed in Angola (Freedom House 2005), but no laws have been enacted that specifically address domestic violence (ANGOP 25 Sept. 2007; Freedom House 2005; HRW 2005). Human Rights Watch (HRW) indicates that no laws prohibit marital rape and the Penal Code specifies "lenient" penalties for sexual crimes(2005). According to Sacramento, the government is developing a law prohibiting domestic violence (Angola 28 Feb. 2006; ANGOP 23 July 2007). No information on when this draft bill is expected to be passed into law could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Angola has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (AI n.d.), as well as a number of other international agreements that protect the rights of women, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (IBA 2 July 2003, 41-42).

Judicial protection

Women have limited access to formal justice systems, according to Freedom House (2005). Similarly, HRW states that courts are "virtually non-existent in the provinces" (2005). In addition, a senior researcher from the University of Lisbon who specializes in gender issues pertaining to Angola and other Portuguese-speaking African countries commented in correspondence with the Research Directorate that "in many places [women] cannot access the legal system" (6 Oct. 2007). A representative from Rede Mulher, an Angolan non-governmental organization focussed on women's issues (GBV Prevention Network n.d.), stated that customary law is very strongly followed in Angola, particularly given that not every municipality has a court (Rede Mulher 19 Oct. 2007).

Freedom House reports that judges are "frequently lenient" in sentencing men who are convicted of violence against women (2005). Similarly, in a 25 September 2007 article, the Angola Press Agency (ANGOP) cited Sacramento as saying the perpetrators of domestic violence are not always appropriately punished for their crimes. She said this was because Angola does not yet have a law prohibiting domestic violence (ANGOP 25 Sept. 2007).

Police protection

HRW reports that the attitude of police officers toward domestic and sexual violence discourages women from reporting such violence (2005). Regarding police attitudes, participants in an SFCG workshop involving police officers and community members, most of whom were women, expressed "particular concern" about the police response to domestic violence in Angola (SFCG April 2007). SFCG reports that community members questioned "how the police could credibly punish offenders when [police officers] were often the perpetrators of sexual violence" (Apr. 2007).

Similarly, the Senior Researcher from the University of Lisbon said that authorities in Angola are highly distrusted and that women are unlikely to report domestic violence to the police (6 Oct. 2007). The Representative from Rede Mulher stated that when a woman goes to the police to report domestic violence she faces a process that is frustrating, shameful and time-consuming (19 Oct. 2007). However, the Representative also said that the Ministry of the Interior is conducting a series of seminars to educate police about domestic violence (Rede Muhler19 Oct. 2007).

Support services

In her statement to the UN, Vice-Minister Sacramento said that efforts to deliver services to help protect victims of domestic violence have been hindered by the lack of a law against domestic violence law (ANGOP 25 Sept. 2007). However, she further noted that the provincial departments of the Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women provide counselling rooms for victims and that the Angolan Women's Organization (Organização da Mulher Angolana, OMA) and the police also address domestic violence (ibid.) However, HRW reports that the Angolan government has so far "failed to provide adequate health and emotional support services" for women who are victims of domestic violence (2007).

The Representative from Rede Mulher stated there is one shelter in Angola that can accommodate about 10 women (19 Oct. 2007). She further commented that the shelter is run by the OMA and that it is difficult for the organization to maintain the shelter (19 Oct. 2007).

Sacramento indicated that the Angolan government is developing a national action plan that aims to promote zero tolerance of domestic violence (Angola 28 Feb. 2006). In her statement to the 51st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, she highlighted the fact that the Angolan president has "made important remarks linked to the need for educational and preventative measures in order to address domestic violence" (ibid.) Furthermore, Sacramento said the government plans to set up a database to document the prevalence of domestic violence (ANGOP 25 Sept. 2007). No information regarding the implementation of the national action plan or the database could be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Angola. 28 Febuary 2006. "Statement by Her Excellency Mrs. Ana Paula Sacramento Vice-Minister of Family and Promotion of Women of the Republic of Angola at the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2007]

Amnesty International (AI). N.d. "Angola." What you Should Know ... Amnesty International's Guide to UN Human Rights Council Candidates. [Accessed 25 Oct. 2007]

Angola Press Agency (ANGOP) [Luanda]. 25 September 2007. "Family Ministry to Create Data Bank on Domestic Violence." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2007]
_____. 7 September 2007. "Angola: Domestic Violence Hinders Gender Goals – Official." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2007]
_____. 23 July 2007. "Official Worried about Domestic Violence Rate." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2007]

Freedom House. 2007. "Angola." Freedom in the World 2007. [Accessed 12 Oct. 2007]
_____. 2005. "Angola." Countries at the Crossroads 2005. [Accessed 12 Oct. 2007]

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Prevention Network. N.d. "Gender-based Violence Prevention Network Members." [Accessed 18 Oct. 2007]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2007. "Angola." World Report 2007. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2007]
_____. 2005. "Angola." World Report 2005. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2007]

International Bar Association (IBA). 2 July 2003. Angola: Promoting Justice Post-Conflict. [Accessed 2 November 2007]

PeaceWomen. 25 April 2007. Issue 88. Donald Steinberg. "Failing to Empower Women Peacebuilders: A Cautionary Tale from Angola." [Accessed 5 Oct. 2007]

Rede Mulher [Luanda]. 19 October 2007. Correspondence with a representative.

Search for Common Ground (SFCG). April 2007. "Peace and Security Program: Angolan Security Forces Engaged in the Peacebuilding Process." Angola Update. Vol. 3, Issue 1. [Accessed 5 Oct. 2007]
_____. September 2005. "Tackling Domestic Violence EKELOLO Improves Community Relations." Angola Update,Vol. 1, Issue 1. [Accessed 5 Oct. 2007]
_____. N.d. "Frequently Asked Questions." [Accessed 5 Oct. 2007]

Senior Researcher, Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), University of Lisbon. 6 October 2007. Correspondence.

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), government of Angola, International Crisis Group (ICG), Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency; Population Reference Bureau, Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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