Timor-Leste Passes Law Against Domestic Violence
Monday, May 17, 2010 1:10 PM

Timor-Leste’s Law Against Domestic Violence was passed by parliament in May of 2010, eight years after it was first drafted. While the penal code recognized domestic violence as a crime in 2009, it lacked a clear definition and did not mandate any type of victim support services. The new law requires police to investigate domestic violence crimes, ensures victims will be able to access emergency medical attention, shelter opportunities, counseling services and legal support, and opens up avenues for financial reparations to the victim.

Now that the law has passed, the next step for the government of Timor-Leste is to convince citizens that domestic violence is not simply a private family issue. Domestic abuse is viewed by many as a normal part of marriage, and in a 2003 International Rescue Committee study fifty-one percent of women interviewed thought that “a man has good reason to hit his wife if she disobeys him.” This commonly-held belief may stem from the Timorese tradition of a man paying money for his bride. 

Lawmakers hope to address this common public sentiment as the newly-passed law mandates a public awareness campaign and the inclusion of education on family violence into school curriculum. Armando da Costa, of the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, which drafted the law, stated that  “We want people to understand that domestic violence is a crime and that violence in the family hurts families.”

 Complied from:  "TIMOR-LESTE: New law aims to fight domestic violence," IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis, 12 May 2010; Swaine, Aisling, "Traditional Justice and Gender Based Violence - Research Report," International Rescue Committee, August 2003.