Portuguese court uses Bible to justify woman's assault, sparks outrage

A Portugal court sparked outrage when it used the Bible and a 19th-century law to justify a suspended sentence for a man convicted of assaulting his ex-wife with a spiked bat because she allegedly committed adultery.

According to the court, the man was given a 15-month suspended sentence a $2,000 fine for using the bat with nails attached to it to attack his ex-wife in the street in 2015, leaving her covered in cut and bruises.

While prosecutors argued the sentence was too lenient and asked for a prison sentence of 3.5 years, an appeals court rejected the request – and quoted the Bible for doing do.

In their written ruling, the appeals court judges expressed “some understanding” for the attacked, saying a woman’s adultery is “a very serious offense against a man’s honor and dignity.”

They then noted the Bible says an adulterous woman should be punished by death before citing an 1886 Portuguese law that gave only symbolic sentences to men who killed their wives for suspected adultery.

The judges at the appeals court in Porto, Portugal's second-largest city, 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."

The court’s decision sparked immediate backlash and calls for protest from rights groups.

The Women’s Alternative and Response Union said the ruling legitimized violence against women and blamed the victim.

Portugal's Superior Magistrates Council, an oversight body, said it had taken note of the "vivid criticism from broad sections of public opinion." However, it said courts are independent and it could not intervene, even when faced with "archaic, inappropriate or unfortunate" comments by judges.

The woman could appeal to Portugal's higher courts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.