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Timor-Leste struggles to implement law against dv because people think it “will break up families”


Like many countries in its infancy, the south-east Asian state of Timor-Leste (created in 2002) is struggling to implement a recently adopted law criminalising domestic violence (dv). So far, so ordinary.

But the reason for the difficulties, according to this article in IRIN, comes from people who worry “it will break up families”.

Let me run that one by you again – the government of Timor-Leste is struggling to implement a law against dv because some people think it will break up families.

At least one person disagrees – Maria Barreto, advocacy coordinator for the local East Timor Women’s Communication Forum.

“People are saying this is too early, that this law is not a reflection of the will of the Timorese people and was imposed by outsiders, but people who say this do not know the statistics on domestic violence here,” said Martins.

And it’s not a pretty picture.

Eight out of 10 crimes reported nationwide in 2009 to the vulnerable person’s unit (VPU), an investigating department created in 2001 by the UN and national police to respond to crimes against women and children, were for domestic violence.

In 2008 it was also the most reported crime – 406 out of 628 cases. While there are signs in 2010 in some districts that cases are down – in the southern Covalima district bordering Indonesia, there have been five reported cases this year versus 22 in 2009 and 24 in 2008 – only a fraction of such crimes are reported, according to Covalima’s VPU chief, Amelia Amaral.

“We bring every case made known to us to the court, but many victims are too scared to provide information,” she said.

But perhaps if the powers that be in Timor-Leste listened to the stories of some of these women also published by IRIN, they might quicken the pace of change rather than slow it down.

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