Progress and Challenges in the Fight to Stop Violence Against Women in Timor-Leste

02 Dec 2013

UN Pledges continued support to protect basic human rights of women and girls to live free from violence

Dili -- Every year, up to 60 percent of women around the world experience some form of physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. (Lee versaun Tetum iha ne'e)

The Government of Timor-Leste has shown great resolve in its commitment to ending the cycle of violence against women. The Law Against Domestic Violence (LADV), promulgated in 2010, takes a strong position that domestic violence is neither a “normal” nor a “private” matter. This, along with the introduction of the National Action Plan on gender-based violence in 2012 as well as targeted amendments to the penal code are clear indications of the country’s commitment to gender equity and ensuring that women enjoy full participation in the country’s development progress.

But there is much work to be done. The Government’s Demographic Health Survey of 2010 indicates that 38% of Timorese women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. In spite of LADV, it is estimated that 30 to 50 per cent of Timorese women continue to suffer abuse from their partners at some point in their relationship.

Through our programmes and activities, the UN supports the Government’s and civil society’s efforts to turn the tide of gender-based violence to ensure that all Timorese – men, women and children – enjoy the full benefits of the country’s progress equally. From policy to health care, protection to legal services, the UN agencies are leveraging their unique and collective strengths to address the causes and impact of gender-based violence.

 We are working with the Ministry of Health and local NGOs to develop training programmes for health care workers to effectively document victims’ physical injuries for use as evidence in court. A joint initiative with the Secretariat of State for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI) provides training to police on the nature of domestic violence and LADV. A recently published report looks at the legal and social context and the challenges women face in deciding whether, how and where to seek justice in case of domestic violence and provides recommendations for establishing linkages between the country’s  formal state justice  and the traditional justice systems.

Open Day on Women, Peace and Security is an annual event, a partnership between SEPI and UN Women, to commemorate the passage of Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 in the year 2000, and is an opportunity for local women to make their voices heard to high-level government.

This year’s Open Day (held 23 November) paves the way for the consultations on the National Action Plan on SCR 1325, marking the government's further support to the importance of women's participation in community and peace building, as well as recognition of women's contributions to the current peaceful state of Timor-Leste.

On November 25, the International Day to End Violence Against Women, we launched the global 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence, a special effort to organize activism to combat violence against women. Here in Timor-Leste, the theme of this year’s campaign is Promote Peace, Say No to Domestic Violence.  This country-wide campaign is led by SEPI in partnership with UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF as well as various government institutions, international NGOs and civil society.

This year’s 16 Days features more than 30 events including consultations, training sessions, and public discussions on the LADV, human trafficking, human rights, the referral network for survivors of violence, theatre and community radio programmes.

It is fitting that the 16 Days campaign concludes on Human Rights Day (10 December), a day where peoples around the world honour “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. These words from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are as true and inspiring today as when they were written in 1948.  

As the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, affirms, “Violence against women and girls directly affects individuals. It also harms our common humanity. This International Day to End Violence against Women is a chance to recommit to preventing and halting all forms of violence against women and girls. When we secure their rights, we advance our common humanity.”