LISBON, Portugal – Women's rights groups in Portugal reacted angrily Friday to a court's suspended sentence for two men found guilty of sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who had passed out drunk at a night club.
The Women's Alternative and Response Union said in a Facebook post it was "revolting" that an appeals court rejected the public prosecutor's request for prison time.
Two judges, a man and woman, at the appeals court ruled that the two nightclub workers, who were 25 and 39 at the time of the attack, were only "half to blame" for the assault on the 26-year-old woman after a night of heavy drinking and "mutual seduction."
The ruling said no violence was used against the woman who was unconscious in the night club's rest rooms. The woman filed a complaint with the police, saying she hadn't given her consent for sexual intercourse.
The assault happened in Vila Nova de Gaia, in northern Portugal, in 2016. A lower court in February handed down a suspended sentence of four and a half years for both men. An appeals court issued its ruling in June and was first reported by newspaper Diario de Noticias on Friday. The ruling was placed online.
The two men admitted having sex with the woman, but denied she was unconscious. However, the prosecutor produced text messages between the men in which they acknowledged she had blacked out.
In upholding the suspended sentence, the appeals court argued the men had no previous convictions and were in stable relationships, with both being fathers.
It added that the physical harm to the woman was "not particularly serious."
It is not the first time a Portuguese court's ruling on a sexual issue has triggered an outcry.
Last year, women's rights groups were angered by a court decision that quoted the Bible and a 19th-century law in justifying a suspended sentence for a man convicted of assaulting his ex-wife with a bat because she allegedly committed adultery.
Also, Europe's human rights court ruled last year that judges in Portugal were guilty of sexual discrimination in a medical compensation case when they decided that the importance of sex diminished with the age of a woman.