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The Importance of Domestic Violence Law in East Timor

The Importance of Domestic Violence Law in East Timor

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Published by Warren Wright
An article by the Judicial System Monitoring Program on the importance of the existence of a law on domestic violence in East Timor (aka Timor-Leste). Both English and the original Tetum versions are in this document.
An article by the Judicial System Monitoring Program on the importance of the existence of a law on domestic violence in East Timor (aka Timor-Leste). Both English and the original Tetum versions are in this document.

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Published by: Warren Wright on Apr 14, 2010
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11/29/2012

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JSMP: The importance of having a Domestic ViolenceLaw in Timor Leste
EnglisJustice UpdateMarch 2010
The importance of having a Domestic Violence Law in Timor Leste
Urgency and rationale for a Domestic Violence Law
There are a range of arguments that support the need to urgently pass the draft Domestic Violence Law, including the direneed for such a law, the socio-economic reality of women, constitutional requirements and state obligations under international law. For this reason JSMP urges and encourages the respectable members of the National Parliament toimmediately approve the Draft Domestic Violence Law to fulfill the following obligations imposed on the State of Timor-Leste: 
 
Article 6 (j) of the Timor-Leste Constitution which states that:
The fundamental objectives of the State shall be… to create, promote and guarantee the effective equality of opportunities between women and men;
 
Article 9 (2) of the Timor-Leste Constitution which states that:
 Rules provided for in international conventions,treaties and agreements shall apply the internal legal system of East Timor following their approval, ratification or in accession by the respective competent organs and after publication in the official gazette
; 
 
Article 16.1 and 16.2 of the Timor-Leste Constitution which state that:
 All citizens are equal before the law, shall exercise the same rights and shall be subject to the same duties. No one shall be discriminated against on grounds of color, race, marital status, gender, ethnical origin, language, social or economic status, political or ideological convictions, religion, education and physical or mental condition
; 
 
Also Article 17 of the Timor-Leste Constitution states that:
Women and men shall have the same rights and duties in all areas of family, political, economic, social and cultural life;
 
 
 
The CEDAW Convention, and Recommendations of the CEDAW Committee on the initial report from theGovernment of Timor-Leste which included a special recommendation about access to the courts and violenceagainst women, as highlighted in Recommendation No. 21: “The Committee is concerned that, while women’saccess to justice is provided for by legislation, their ability in practice to exercise that right and to bring cases of discrimination before courts is limited by such factors as illiteracy, language barriers, practical difficulties inaccessing courts, the persistence of traditional justice systems, legal costs, lack of information about their rights andlack of assistance in pursuing their rights”. Furthermore, in Recommendation No. 22: “the Committee requests theState party to take all appropriate measures to remove impediments women may face in gaining access to justice, andto ensure that the judiciary is familiar with the Convention and the State party’s obligations. It urges the State partyto provide legal aid services, implement legal literacy programs and disseminate knowledge of ways to utilizeavailable legal remedies against discrimination, as well as to monitor the results of such efforts. The Committeeencourages the State party to seek assistance from the international community in order to implement measures that,in practice, will strengthen women’s access to justice”.
 
In addition, in its Recommendation No. 29 on Violence Against Women, the Committee stated: “While notingwith appreciation the enactment in 2009 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual crimes as public crimes, andacknowledges all forms of violence as a violation of women’s rights to bodily security and integrity and ensures thatcriminal proceedings do not depend on a formal complaint from the victim, the Committee regrets that the delegationwas unable to respond to the Committee’s question regarding the criminalization of marital rape under the new PenalCode
and regrets that the enactment of the draft Law on Domestic Violence has been severely delayed
. TheCommittee is concerned at the prevalence of various forms of violence against women, in particular sexual violenceand domestic violence, and the lack of information on the extent of the phenomenon. It is further concerned thatcases of violence against women are resolved through traditional methods, including mediation”.
 
 
In addition to the various concerns listed by the CEDAW Committee, JSMP also believes that provisions ondomestic violence in the Penal Code imply a state obligation to provide maximal protect to women and children,especially victims of domestic violence.
 Introduction 
The issue of violence against women is a social issue that has been ever present in the history of humankind and continuesuntil this day. Violence against women continues to be a controversial issue and has become increasingly complex of late.The complexity, underlying reasons and characteristics of domestic violence are different from country to country, but it isa phenomenon which occurs everywhere, across all social classes and regardless of educational levels, and this practicealso takes place in civilized and developed states. For this reason, the issue of domestic violence is considered to be auniversal virus that is of concern for the entire global community. This issue has become increasingly complex and provokes debate on both sides because some countries consider violence against women and children to be a permissibleand legitimate practice due to cultural influences and norms that treat women as objects and possessions.
 
 Clearly we all realize and accept that in reality both men and women, as well as children, can become victims of domesticviolence. However, research and data indicate that women and children are more likely to be victimized because of  practices that marginalize, discriminate and exclude them from having equal opportunities. Thus, they are placed in positions of extreme vulnerability in society. As a result of their circumstances, many women and children are frustrated,lose hope and are subject to exploitation. They are also more likely to become victims of the misuse of power and facegender-based stigmatization resulting from a wide range of cultural practices and values that continue to flourish in thecommunity. Until now there have been no adequate social, legal or formal mechanisms in place to respond to the violenceand psychological pressure encountered by women and children. Although there are a number of legal provisions that maydeal with assault to the person, they are open to a wide range of interpretations and have not specifically defined what can be considered as domestic violence. In reference to the circumstances that lead to domestic violence, many women who become victims choose not to lodge acomplaint through the existing legal system, because they do not wish to deal with the psychological burden, and theyhave limited knowledge of legal procedures. They may also face social stigma, and many view domestic violence as anextremely personal matter or family problem that should not be dealt with in public. Justifiably, many are also concernedthat the legal process is full of bureaucracy, and there is a tendency for the victim to be re-victimized.For the reasons outlined above, even though women want their cases to be resolved, the majority of them choosemediation through traditional processes as a compromise, even though these processes often provide little benefit andoften fail to address the interests of the victim. On the other hand, the protection and guarantees provided in the law,especially the criminal law and other provisions on domestic violence, are still far from ideal because the provisions ondomestic violence are set out in a very general manner.Based on monitoring conducted by JSMP, the number of cases of domestic violence and other forms of violence againstwomen continue to increase in all areas within the territory of Timor-Leste. This is evidenced by the number of cases of domestic violence and other types of violence against women that are listed in each court jurisdiction
 including casesattended to by the Victim Support Service (VSS)
 that show that violence against women and domestic violence in particular are the most prevalent types of violence in Timor-Leste. Considering the fact that women are still becoming victims of violence and discrimination in the family sphere and insociety, JSMP believes that it is of utmost importance and urgency to establish a formal mechanism to regulate and protectvictims of domestic violence and free women from their situations of vulnerability as described above. 

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