| Timor-Leste Issue Brief November 2009
T e majority o inormation availableabout imorese women and girls rom1975 to 1999 concerns their particularexperience o sexual violence during theIndonesian occupation. An unveri ablenumber o imorese women and girlswere abducted, raped, and impregnatedby Indonesian solders; of en kept captiveand enslaved; and later rejected by theiramilies. An even more acute orm o gender-based violence occurred duringthe post-reerendum violence o 1999:the systematic rape o imorese womenand girls in the context o their orceddeportation to West imorese camps.
estimonies to this e ect have beencollected by the UN, human rights NGOssuch as Amnesty International, theIndonesian Human Rights Commission,journalists, and East imorese NGOsthemselves.
Even so, there are no accuratestatistics on the scale and distribution o sexual violence during the occupation until1999 and consequently during the periodo orced deportation and internment inWest imor.One o the key obstacles preventingimorese women and girls rom seekingredress in the post-occupation era isinadequate documentation. Bishop Belowrote in 2001: ‘Up to 3,000 died in 1999,untold numbers o women were raped and500,000 persons displaced100,000 areyet to return.’
T e phrase ‘untold numberso women’ is both poignant and literalthe story o women’s and girls’ experiencebeore, during, and af er the 1999 violenceremains largely untold, despite theextraordinary e orts o imorese womenadvocates.It is widely known that SGBV during theoccupation by Indonesian military andmilitia groups was politically motivatedand systematic.
A UN report ound that‘[r]ape was used by the military as a ormo revenge, or to orce the relatives out o hiding’.
T e backdrop o militarizationalso masked incidents o intimate partnerand amily violence.T e most comprehensive overview o sexual violence in occupied East imorappears in chapter 7.7 o the nal reporto the Commission or Reception, ruth,and Reconciliation (CAVR),
also knownas the
report, which presentedboth statistics and the experiences o women and girls. T e CAVR recorded853 cases o sexual violence and drew the‘inevitable conclusion’ that ‘many victims. . . did not come orward to report themto the Commission’.
Reasons or under-reporting include the death o victims andwitnesses (especially or earlier periods o the con ict), victims who may be outsideimor-Leste (especially in West imor),the painul and very personal nature o the experiences, and the ear o social oramily humiliation or rejection i theirexperiences are known publicly. T e CAVRultimately decided that the total numbero sexual violations was likely to be severaltimes higher than the number reported.
Other data appears to support a higherincidence o SGBV during 1999. In a 2004study o 288 imorese women, one in ourreported being exposed to violence during1999.
Leading imorese women’s NGOForum Komunikasi Untuk Perempuanimor Lorosa’e (FOKUPERS) documented46 cases o rape during the 1999 violence:9 perpetrated by Indonesian soldiers, 28 by pro-Jakarta militias, and 9 by joint attacksby militias and soldiers. Some 18 o thesewere categorized as mass rapes.
‘Many o these crimes were carried out withplanning, organization, and coordination’, aFOKUPERS report states.
Meanwhile, inthe reugee camps o West imor, to whichtens o thousands o women and girls wereorcibly deported, a act- nding teamin one study alone ound 163 di erentcases o violence against 119 women. Itnoted the many serious impacts o sexualviolence on women’s health, including,but not limited to, death in childbirth,ongoing reproductive health issues, andpsychological harm.
T ere is still acampaign to obtain the release o severalyoung women in the West imor campswho are thought to be held against theirwill as ‘war trophies’ by militia leaders.
Despite even this limited acknowledgmento the causes and consequences o SGBV,media reports con rm that the ‘victimso militia rape and sex slavery continueto bear the scars o post-ballot violencein imor-Leste, acing ostracism ontheir return home’.
With the exceptiono isolated examples such as the book
and the CAVR ‘Women andthe Con ict’ hearing,
women havenot spoken out in public about theirexperiences. ‘What has been violatedis their sense o who they are and theirpossibility o living without ear’, said oneadvocate in the CAVR report.
T eseexperiences o violation and stigmatizationhave prevented imorese women and girlsrom seeking help in the post-occupationperiod, especially in relation to intimatepartner violence and amily violence.
SGBV in the post-independence period
SGBV in imor-Leste occurs againsta backdrop o general poverty anddeprivation, especially or women andgirls. As o 2009, the country is consideredthe poorest in Asia and one o the leastdeveloped on the planet.
According to aUN Development Programme (UNDP)report released in January 2006, 90 outo 1,000 children die beore their rstbirthday, hal the population is illiterate,64 per cent su er rom ood insecurity,hal lack access to sae drinking water, and40 per cent live below the o cial poverty line (an income o USD 0.55 a day).
Anestimated 95,000 women have been givensterilizing injections since 1975, of enwithout their consent,
and over hal o women and girls are illiterate.
Maternal mortality rates are particularly high. T e incidence o maternal mortality o ers an important proxy or the healthand social status o women and girlsgenerally. Figures generated by the WorldHealth Organization (WHO) in early 2001reveal that twice as many women die inchildbirth in imor-Leste as anywhere elsein East Asia or the Western Paci c region.
According to WHO, only 196 midwivesare available or a population o 800,000and less than a quarter o imor’s womenhave ready access to a healthcare acility or quali ed midwie. UNDP and WHOobserve that these gures represent ‘anabsolute tragedy’.
Intimate partner violence and amilyviolence
T e rst National Women’s Congress in2000 identi ed ‘domestic violence’ as apriority issue or imorese women.
T eissue o SGBV in the home remains the key priority or imorese advocates and NGOs,who state that high levels o intimatepartner violence and amily violence arereported in every district.
T e priority given to the issue by NGOs is based on theunderstanding that women in imor-Lestehave endured a severe increase in intimatepartner violence and amily violence andother types o crimes since 1999.
Notwithstanding considerable attentiondevoted to the issue since 2000, data isincomplete and of en anecdotal. T e maininormation sources are complaints topolice, hospital emergency room data,court reports, and NGO service providers.Unortunately, public sources o data aboutSGBV, despite the basic gender equality mandate o the UN Mission in imor-