Maputo — Mozambique’s former First Lady, Graca Machel, has called for a thorough review of the legislation against sexual harassment and abuse, in light of the scandal at the Matalana police training school, on the outskirts of Maputo.

Here women police recruits were abused and impregnated. Initially, a dispatch from the general commander of the police, Bernandino Rafael, leaked to social media, said that 15 of the trainees had been made pregnant by their male instructors.

On Wednesday, speaking at the conclusion of a training course at Matalana, President Filipe Nyusi said the preliminary investigations indicated that four trainees were impregnated inside the school and ten others outside. Nonetheless, he regarded it as a very serious matter and those responsible must be held to account.

Interviewed by the independent television station STV, Graca Machel said sexual harassment can only be fought effectively with a far-reaching revision of the legislation.

“The law has to be very strong and must leave no doubt that this is a crime”, she said. “We need a broad and deep movement of intolerance for this behaviour, of indignation and repudiation against sexual harassment”.

Machel, who is chairperson of one of the country’s most prominent NGOs, the Community Development Foundation (FDC), said a point must be reached where potential offenders “don’t even dare try harassment, because they know that public opinion will fall on top of them implacably”.

For Machel, this environment hostile to sexual abuse must be created by civil society organisations but also by state bodies. “All sectors have to create an environment of intolerance, where it is not acceptable to use women for shabby purposes”, she said.

Retired Anglican Bishop Dinis Sengulane, who sits on the FDC board, agreed, and praised whoever it was who leaked Bernadino Rafael’s dispatch to the media. People who discover similar situations should do likewise, he urged.

Sengulane called for a reflection around what society can do to avoid any repetition of the Matalana scandal “not only in the police, but also in other sectors where we believe that similar things are happening”.

Both Sengulane and Machel hoped that justice will be done in the Matalana case.

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