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The percursor

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Vera Duarte studied law at the University of Lisbon, was subsequently counselor judge of the Supreme Court of Justice and Adviser to the President of the Republic of Green Cape. In 1995, she received the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe, in recognition of her struggle in defense of human rights. She is part of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Commission of Jurists. In 1993 publishes the first book of poems "Amanhã Amadrugada". In 2003 published her first novel, "the candidate" who received the Sonangol Literature Prize.

You were the first woman magistrate in you country and also linked to human rights.
Vera Duarte: That is right. Let's say I'm a very woman of my time, I lived a historic time of change, I watched a lot, Green Cape was a colony and became independent. Followed the background all this process of emancipation and empowerment of women in Africa and in the world and I also witnessed several historical periods from through the news, May 68, Woodstock, the struggle for civil rights in the US, the fall of totalitarian regimes. At the same time, it, because of my way of being, I pioneered some things especially in the judiciary sistem of Green Cape, was the first woman magistrate and why? Because it was forbidden in colonial times women to have access to such positions, but also could not be diplomats or employees of customs, etc. I and others who worked on the legislation revoke all these discriminatory standards, in the labor field and also the civil status of women.

So how did this whole process being the only woman in a totally male universe, in an African country while giving a lot of importance to women in cultural terms is very macho at the same time?
VD: Green Cape did not escape the rule of these other African countries with a deeply macho culture, not forgetting that our country comes from a slave society, where man was not only a landowner, the slaves, but also women who had theeir children and used them to their pleasure, all our Cape Verdean society was deeply sexist. Clearly, with the country's liberation process, the war for independence, although it had not spread to our territory, but we know that many Cape Verdeans were participating in the armed struggle for the independence of Guinea-Bissau and in hiding in many countries all over the world, it is clear that the whole ideology of liberation was based on the emancipation of women, as Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the armed struggle for independence of Bissau and Green Cape, that, yes, was a man who lived far ahead of his time, from the 50 have made speeches to the guerrillas and also the populations of the areas which were later released and he spoke of women's rights, them being treated as an equal, to be respected, even treat it with dignity. I would say that all this thinking had begun to bear fruit among the population and especially in layers say more intellectually prepared in Green Cape. So when we accede to independence and this process straightaway to repeal thediscriminatory laws inherited from the colonial regime, I who had the course in law ended up being named Attorney of the Republic, then made career in the judiciary system and was judge adviser to the Supreme Court justice.
What were your first challenges in these positions?
VD: One of the first challenges was the Green Cape men to see a woman in a position that was previously occupied only by men, this is the first report. After I was only 21 then hear them say things like "We have a beautiful woman there on the prosecution, but she's tough." Obviously I will not say it was easy, never was, but I always had this taste for challenge on me, has always been part of my personality and how it was touched by the struggle for women's rights of emancipation and equality, it was not difficult to have that aware that in order to open new paths, the ones that were going ahead had to go pay some price, but it was something I did with a light spirit, even though it hurt me any discriminatory treatment. By the way, it went up the same with writing which would also be a female voice and there were many different interpretations, but I always thought that my goal was always greater, for something that was worth and like, the writer, Florbela Espanca said my emancipation is greater than the universe and so worth it.

It's been already 29 years of democracy in Green Cape and I know that today your struggle is against violence against women.
VD: It's something coming from behind. Anyway, one of the most aberrant manifestations, most egregious and most violent step expression of discrimination against women was domestic violence. The fact that we come from a slave society also shows how this scourge was rooted, man always inhabited treat the woman as if they were an inferior being, a child who is taught by the blow and this early touched me. The fight against domestic violence can say it was the first major causes that have approached me, me and other women, of course, and from the beginning we have worked this issue.

Even the legislative level?
VD: Even at that level, the first step was to turn the crime of private origin in a semi-public crime, penalization was also harden and above all write and promote awareness campaigns. Of course, that little by little we were creating organizations and institutions that could help in this issue, decrease it, the ultimate goal is to make it disappear, but we know how it is necessary to have real targets. What matters is that we did a long way just these almost 30 years. At this time the violence on gender is a public crime, does not admit pardon, have a more severe penalty and above all we have civil society movements working with women, especially among men, for example, the white lace men working actively against domestic violence in Green Cape. Currently, we can change this scourge in our society and not only did we criminalize it as this point is a reprehensible act, it is considered shameful to a man hit a woman.

Still on the subject in Portugal one of the problems that arises on the complaints is that many women give up because they end up having to share the family room with their abusers, or have to leave their homes with their children this also happens in Green Cape?
VD: That no longer happens in Green Cape because it is a public crime, so no longer accepts the withdrawal, moreover, anyone can report the offender and the public prosecutor may even trigger a criminal action simply for the purpose a report of a man who assaulted a woman before the complaint advanced when there was an abuse, not now. Of course there are still difficulties, we, for example, do not have shelters, but have spaces that perform this function when the woman feels the need to leave the house, although it seeks to adopt a contrary measure, man is out and we try implementing a minimum physical detachment space from the woman. So I think that in this matter also gave very substantial steps, either in terms of the creation of the legal norm, whether at the level of institutions working in this field. Just to add, the head of our Republic is one of the ten heads of state endorsing a UN initiative "be for she" in the fight against domestic violence and he pledged to get 5000 men to this movement. Of course, I am proud to say I have two sons and they are included in this international campaign (laughs).

Another of its major causes are human rights and how this facet enters your life?
VD: That my activism for human rights came by way of women and the question of violence. When I was 10 my teacher asked what we wanted to be when we were grown and of course, no one knew, but I put my hand in the air and said I wanted to be a lawyer, did the law course and if I had to go back would do the same thing. Over time I realize that in my childhood my parents always said I was a querulous child and that would be a lawyer and all this to say what? That since childhood I saw men hit on women, it was something that happened very often and even then it revolted me. Even in high school, at 14 years old, I remember that this question has plagued me a little. I think that all this, plus the wonderful speeches of Amilcar Cabral, twenty years ago to include the elimination convention on discrimination against women contributed to my militancy in this cause and then to the annexation of the additional protocol to the African charter on the rights of men, which I was African Commissioner and which enshrined women's rights, the right to physical integrity, political participation, education, health and other more traditional practices were abolished and were discriminatory measures.

Even female genital excision was included?
VD: Of course, the same protocal penalize it and this was one of the big questions we worried female genital excision. Now, this document will make ten years Nov. 25th, 2005, was adopted at the second summit of the African Union in Maputo, and one of the great achievements of this protocol is that from the moment that an Estate approves are obliged to create legislation in that sense and I think we've saved over the years surely thousands of women who have experienced it, yet continues to be many to suffer this scourge.

Addressing the process of migration, Cape Verdeans have always been an emigrant people, who are everywhere, it is not one of the international human rights focuses?
VD: The issue of migrants has a nuance, I wrote a text a few years in that note with the advent of the twenty-first century the exponentially increasing of the issue of illegal immigration, and in fact I am saying again that all the TV news, or media have already touched on this scourge of Africans arriving in Lampedusa, the new wrecks what happen and the Mediterranean has became a graveyard of thousands of people who end up dying while seeking the "el dorado" of Europe. Clearly, we are next door to another issue, which are refugees. But at the same time we are in the fight for the rights of refugees are respected, they can find asylum and that countries generously open to those who have in fact this need, there we stopped to note with some bitterness that when they were just particularly Africans dieing, there was so much visibility and extended hand to those who end up experiencing a painful humanitarian tragedy. Africans had already suffered slavery, the human traffic and now suffer from the tragedy of illegal immigration.

Now I want to address one of your other facets which is your feminine writting and here you already glimpsed that was also prejudiced against it.
VD: I do not remember when I started writing, but I can say that the determination was too much and I come from poetry that has always been my field. Obviously I come cross the chronic and now I'm writing a novel, but there was always the autobiographical reading temptation of all that writing and in a small mean you end up getting too exposed, one is at the mercy of many interpretations, the most diverse and even the most evil, but I think nothing deterred me. I must also pay tribute to the men who supported me, Cape Verdean intellectuals such as Arnaldo França, for example, who has died and Luis Romano who supported me when my first poems were published. I am clearly adept of art for life, respect for all artists, writers, publishers and poets and my writing is a way to reach out to others, to convey messages and talk about things that hurt me. Has always been very cathartic my poetry, I discuss in my poems the issue of violence against women, children, migrants and illegal immigrants. Apart from my profession, was publish in magazines and newspapers, I was taking incentives and in 1993 ended up publishing a book "tomorrow morning", then came others. Because of a problem with the my eyes had to reformed from the judiciary system and I am fully in writing, which gives me a great pleasure.

Women who read your poetry comes to you?
VD: Yes, they communicate a lot and they tell me things like "the poem that was published in the journal looked like it was me it was writing about". This is something very good and going back a bit, as district attorney I too heard people, their criticisms and lamentations and ended up being a performer of these lives, but of course, who read thought I was writing about me, but now I'm fully comfortable, a little beyond good and evil.

Considers its feminine or unwritten?
VD: People who study my writing and I have had some really, understand that I am a female voice in the writing of Green Cape and even feminist, because it is in favor of women, of their right to the body, the right to love and pleasure. If I do a retrospective and at the same time seeing the analysis of others is written around a heroine, the negative or positive. It's always a woman expressing her emotions, to make her catharsis, is not an androgynous writing, no, it's feminine and so I have been fortunate to have several master's theses and doctorates. The person turns out to be one, although it has several dimensions and that is my essence that ultimately protrude in all these activities.

And there are many women writers in Green Cape and do not speak only of that who claim been feminist.
VD: There are some women writers in our country that do not claim to be feminist. But there is a greater number of women that write, younger and deep down with our writing more we encouraged others to write.

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