UNDP Report Looks at Barriers to Justice for Victims of Domestic Violence

24 Oct 2013

image Photo: The Baucau Access to Justice Team, 2011/UNDP TL

Dili – An estimated 30-50 percent of Timorese women continue to suffer abuse from their partners at some point in their relationship. This is in spite of the country’s Law Against Domestic Violence (LADV), promulgated by the Government in 2010, that defines it a public crime which requires the state to respond whether a victim files a criminal complaint or not. (Lee versaun Tetum iha ne'e)

Strengthening implementation of the current law, together with a formalization of the role of the customary justice systems of Timor-Leste, would significantly enhance the ability of victims of domestic violence to access justice. This is one the leading recommendations drawn from a study launched today by UNDP’s Justice System Programme (JSP).

Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence in Timor-Leste: Access to Justice Options, Barriers and Decision Making Processes in the Context of Legal Pluralism looks at the legal and social context and the challenges women face in deciding whether, how and where to seek justice. Produced by UNDP’s Justice System Programme, the Report makes recommendations for strengthening implementation of the current law and for using the strengths of the customary justice systems in Timor-Leste to enhance the ability of victims of domestic violence to access justice.

“One key issue this research highlights is the essential need to establish a legal link between formal state justice and traditional justice systems in Timor-Leste,” said H.E. Dr. Dionisio Babo-Soares, Minister of Justice. “For this reason, the Ministry of Justice is currently drafting a law that respects the primary role and responsibility of the state justice system while establishing formal recognition and legal enforceability for agreements made using the diverse local traditional systems across Timor-Leste.”

Among the Report’s recommendations:

  • PNTL institute a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating how officers respond to domestic violence reports, with any corrective actions implemented to ensure that police officers comply with the Law  
  • Government explore approaches to income generation for women victims in collaboration with the providers of shelters and services for women victims of domestic violence
  • Socialization activities aim to change attitudes and behaviours as well as to increase public awareness and are conducted in local languages and/or whichever language recipients understand best
  • Activities challenging domestic violence employ and engage local cultural concepts and beliefs, where possible, to reinforce the prohibition on violence
  • Government enact a law which sets out when and how agreements under customary justice procedures can be accepted by the formal justice system, as a priority

“This report constitutes an invaluable contribution to the fight against domestic violence in Timor-Leste as it helps us to see and better understand women’s concerns at the community level,” said Mikiko Tanaka, UNDP Country Director.  “These findings will help the government develop better policies and interventions to help ensure victims of domestic violence are able to access justice.”

Begun in 2011, the researchers interviewed Community Authorities, traditional and spiritual authorities, women’s representatives, members of local NGOs, community members, justice-related organizations in Dili and representatives of all formal justice institutions in the four judicial districts (Dili, Baucau, Oecussi, Covalima), including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and PNTL’s Vulnerable Persons Unit. Interviewees were from 13 sub-districts in 10 districts. Timorese NGOs Belun, Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violencia (AMKV), and Fundasaun Fatu Sinai Oecussi (FFSO) provided support with logistics, identifying interviewees, access to communities, and translation.

Contact Information

For further information about the report please contact Andrew Harrington at andrew.harrington@undp.org

About UNDP: UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. In Timor-Leste, UNDP provides technical advice and assistance to build strong and capable public institutions at national and sub-national levels in justice, parliament, human rights, anti-corruption, police, economic development, environmental management and disaster risk management that bring development, peace and justice to the population and reach out to the poor and vulnerable sections of society.

About UNDP’s Justice System Programme: The Justice System Programme (JSP) aims to support Timorese justice institutions to provide a fair, efficient and effective justice system for all in Timor-Leste, and improve access to justice for the poor and disadvantaged. The JSP works in partnership with the courts, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Public Defender’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. The JSP’s current phase was launched in 2008 and will conclude in October 2013. A new project document for the next phase (2014-2018) is due to be signed with the national stakeholders. The JSP was first launched in 2003 and is supported by the Governments of Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Brazil.