TIMOR LESTE – Importance of having a law on domestic violence
16 April 2010 12:53 am
This statement was issued by FORUM-ASIA member in Timor Leste, the Judicial Monitoring System Program, in March 2010, urging for the “Urgency and rationale for a Domestic Violence Law” in the country:
There are a range of arguments that support the need to urgently pass the draft Domestic Violence Law, including the dire need 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 to immediately 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 the Government of Timor-Leste which included a special recommendation about access to the courts and violence against women, as highlighted in Recommendation No. 21:
“The Committee is concerned that, while women’s access 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 in accessing courts, the persistence of traditional justice systems, legal costs, lack of information about their rights and lack of assistance in pursuing their rights”.
Furthermore, in Recommendation No. 22: “the Committee requests the State party to take all appropriate measures to remove impediments women may face in gaining access to justice, and to ensure that the judiciary is familiar with the Convention and the State party’s obligations. It urges the State party to provide legal aid services, implement legal literacy programs and disseminate knowledge of ways to utilize available legal remedies against discrimination, as well as to monitor the results of such efforts. The Committee encourages 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 noting with appreciation the enactment in 2009 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual crimes as public crimes, and acknowledges all forms of violence as a violation of women’s rights to bodily security and integrity and ensures that criminal proceedings do not depend on a formal complaint from the victim, the Committee regrets that the delegation was unable to respond to the Committee’s question regarding the criminalization of marital rape under the new Penal Code and regrets that the enactment of the draft Law on Domestic Violence has been severely delayed.
The Committee is concerned at the prevalence of various forms of violence against women, in particular sexual violence and domestic violence, and the lack of information on the extent of the phenomenon. It is further concerned that cases 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 on domestic violence in the Penal Code imply a state obligation to provide maximal protect to women and children, especially victims of domestic violence.