New Penal Code comes into effect despite expectations of postponement

Mozambique's new Penal Code came into effect today 29 June 2015, despite wide expectation that government would delay implementation of the law

As far as observers are aware, nothing has been put in place to ensure that far-reaching reforms, which in the absence of an extension of the vacatio legis came into effect today, are implementable. For example, article 3 of the law provides that pre-trial detainees and convicts held or sentenced on offences which are no longer crimes, must immediately be returned to freedom. In addition, someone arrested for any offence punishable with up to 8 years imprisonment, must be sent for community service. Without the infrastructure and services in place to implement these, it is unclear how the changes will be implemented. It is also unclear the extent to which police are aware which acts no longer constitute crimes. For example, abortion, which is a crime on which women are frequently detained, is now allowed when performed by health professions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy when the pregnancy can cause the woman physical, psychological or mental harm, or if she’s at risk of death. In case of severe fetal malformation, abortion can be performed up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy and up to 16 weeks in cases of rape or incest. Girls under 16 or mentally incapacitated females need the consent of a parent, legal guardian or relative. Much has also been made of the removal of the provision against anyone "who habitually engages in vices against nature". Activists said this provision was intended for use against homosexual conduct. Its removal is likely to have only symbolic impact, as the provision was not in general use.

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