Timor-Leste: Government Struggles to Implement New Domestic Violence Law
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 12:25 PM

Despite the passage of new domestic violence legislation in Timor-Leste in May of 2010, many say that it is too soon for the law to get the support needed for implementation.  The country gained independence from an Indonesian military dictatorship of 24 years in 2002. According to a study by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, during the military occupation, widespread rape and sexual assault went largely unpunished and highly patriarchal values spread throughout society. The recent domestic violence legislation was drafted nearly a decade ago, but was not passed due to the argument that the country had no official penal code, which was only recently adopted in 2009.


In 2009, eight out of ten reported crimes against women and children were domestic violence crimes, but government officials and NGO leaders say that many people fear the new legislation will drive families apart and that it was imposed upon the country by outside forces. To date, no perpetrator has served jail time for domestic violence. In an effort to publicize the new law, the government is currently working on translating it from the official government language of Portuguese to the local Tetun language. The government has also set up a committee to conduct outreach to government ministries, law enforcement, judges, civil society, and service providers to increase awareness of the requirements of the new legislation. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) commends these actions, but also calls on the government to increase funding for women’s shelters, legal aid to victims, and detention facilities.


Compiled from: “Timor-Leste: The slow death of domestic violence,” IRIN – Humanitarian News and Analysis, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 21 September 2010; "TIMOR-LESTE: New law aims to fight domestic violence," IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,12 May 2010; and “Baseline study on sexual and gender-based violence in Covalima and Bobonaro districts released,” Relief Web, 13 August 2009.