Groundbreaking law against domestic violence passed by national parliament

11 May 2010

Groundbreaking law against domestic violence passed by national parliament

Dili, 03 May 2010 - The National Parliament in Timor-Leste passed the Law Against Domestic Violence on 3 May with 30 votes in favour, three abstentions and no votes against.

While the law is still awaiting promulgation by the President, the passing of the law by the parliament represents a major development in Timorese domestic legislation. It utilizes provisions of the penal code to provide protection against crimes of domestic violence, provides access to social support services, outlines avenues to address the causes of domestic violence and enshrines human rights principles contained in the international treaty law ratified by the country (for further details see below).

Work on the draft law began in 2003 and this law represents the culmination of seven years of drafting, consultations and lobbying for the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality and the former Office for the Promotion of Equality and many local women's and human rights civil society groups. Four years later, in 2009, the penal code was approved and crimes such as mistreatment of a spouse, mistreatment of a child, sexual coercion and rape were defined as public crimes in the Penal Code. Importantly, their classification as public crimes gives power to people other than the victim to report incidences of domestic violence to the police.
In the course of the development of this law, UNFPA, UNIFEM, UNICEF, UNDP and UNMIT, in addition to civil society, have provided support to the Government and comment on the law.
The Law Against Domestic Violence
· Defines domestic violence and the concept of family; an umbrella definition that includes one or more incidents of physical, psychological, economic or sexual violence against a member of family which includes spouses, ex-spouses, ascendants, descendants, persons in the same economic dependency including household workers.
· Establishes government obligations to combat domestic violence and gender stereotypes including: public awareness and campaigns; preparing training and materials; preparing a guide for victims; providing training of village leaders; inclusion in the school curriculum; conducting of specific research; developing a national action plan and promoting and supporting the establishment of victim support associations.
· Outlines a national network of support centres including shelters and receptions centres.
· Gives provisions for specific assistance to be provided to victims include an emergency telephone helpline service, specialised hospital services, social services, polices services and legal assistance. The law also outlines specific duties and obligations of these services and the public prosecution.
· Gives right to the victim to apply for maintenance.
· Outlines which crimes from the penal code fall within the definition of domestic violence.

· Provides certain protections to the victim once they enter the criminal process.