The release of Law on Domestic Violence in Timor Leste has changed the position of women and children in the eyes of law. They, who previously locked away domestic abuse cases, are now starting to consider the case as more than just a domestic matter and privacy. Another law on gender mainstreaming is also in the pipeline. However, positive changes in the land of the rising sun are no overnight work. It is indeed a long process with struggles from the women inside and outside of the parliament.
It had been more than three days, the scorches that burn some parts of Ruy’s (pseudo name) body, were left untreated. Instead of medical attention, this six years old child was hidden by her family in Ermera District, 30 km away from Dili, the capital of Timor Leste. The victim of domestic violence was finally taken to Fatin Hakmatek, a safe house at Dili National Hospital after one of the neighbors made a police report. Crying in pain, she was also diagnosed with malnutrition and stunting.
“She looked like a three-year-old. There were scars on her arms and legs,” thus, the piece of her story found in the report “A day in Fatin Hakmatek, Multi-Tasking and Still Breathing”, in August 2010.
The international organization advocating for victims and survivors of domestic violence, Fatin Hakmatek, mentioned that domestic violence experienced by Ruy was not just physical violence, but a patriarchal power relation among family members. Ruy was not the only child suffered from domestic abuse in Timor Leste. From various types of domestic violence handled by Fatin Hakmatek, women and children made the highest number for victims and survivors.
A report titled, “Unseen, Unsafe” released by Save The Children, World Vision, Plan International, and Child Fund in 2017 recorded 612,539 cases of child abuse in Timor Leste. This number is equal to 87.4 percent out of 700,845 children in the country. Meanwhile, UN Women documented 59 percent of women suffered from physical and sexual abuse in 2015.
In that regard, the women empowerment group with 38 members of women organizations in Timor Leste assessed the roots of the problems on violence since this country was detached from Indonesia. The first effort was carried out in 2001 when the first Women’s Congress was held in Dili agreed on the formation of the Ministry of Women. After that, they wanted a more significant portion of representation in the parliament, up to 30 percent, followed by ratification of Law Against Domestic Violence.
Years of hard work had finally paid off in 2010. The Timor Leste National Parliament ratified the Law Against Domestic Violence. Not only it provides legal support for victims and survivors of abuses, but this law also regulates on time limit for effective and efficient case handling for domestic abuses. The police force has not more than just five days to come up with the case file.
“Domestic abuse does not become a complaint offense, but included in the general criminal conduct,” the Chief of A Commission on Legislation, Carmelita Moniz, mentioned to jaring.id and Radio Rakambia on Tuesday, September 24th, 2019.
This article was made by JARING.id team. A collaboration reporting between JARING and Rakambia Radio on election issues in East Timor and Indonesia.