22 September 2011
Disabled women in East Timor highly vulnerable to violence
East Timor Legal News 22/09/2011 Source: Trustlaw Thin Lei Win 20 Sep 2011 16:01 BANGKOK (TrustLaw) – Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence in East Timor and are at high risk of discrimination, the United Nations said in a report released Tuesday.
The report, by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in East Timor (UNMIT), lauded the government in the tiny Southeast Asian nation for taking positive steps to help people with disabilities but said the state lacks adequate facilities and human resources to take care of them.
“Greater investments are required to provide equal opportunities and protect groups at high risk from serious human rights violations, especially persons with mental disabilities, women and children,” the report said.
The report monitored nine cases of rape against women with disabilities between April 2010 and March 2011, and found “the perpetrators appear to have targeted the victims based on their vulnerability resulting from physical or mental disabilities”.
In one case the victim, who became pregnant as a result of the rape, was sterilised after giving birth without being asked for her consent, the report said. In at least three cases, the caregivers and family members of the victims were reluctant to go to the police.
To date, no indictments have been filed in any of the rape cases, the report said.
“Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, and should be included in nationwide efforts to combat gender-based violence,” it added.
Despite legal protections, women with disabilities suffer double discrimination based on their gender and disability.
East Timor’s constitution explicitly provides for non-discrimination and equal treatment for people with disabilities. But stereotypes about people with disabilities are common and are reinforced by the language as well as traditional and cultural beliefs.
People with disabilities are vulnerable to exclusion from public services and the right to vote because they cannot physically go to registration centres to receive electoral cards. Without this card, they cannot apply for government social assistance programmes, UNMIT said.
The country is ranked 120 out of 169 countries in the U.N. Human Development Index – a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living – and it is estimated that 41 percent of the million-strong population live below the poverty line.
Some 48,000 people with disabilities live in East Timor, the report said.
ETLJB Editor's Note: See also UNMIT Launches Ground-Breaking Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Timor-Leste