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03 October 2008

An Analysis of the Social Problem of Prostitution in East Timor

An Analysis of the Social Problem of Prostitution in East Timor - The fifth civil society research report in the ROCCIPI "Legislative Drafting for Democratic Social Transformation" methodological analyses of social problems in East Timor series has now been published on the East Timor Law Journal in English. Note that this report was written in June 2004.

To read the report, click on the following links which will open word files in the East Timor Law Journal:

Prostitution in East Timor

An extract from the English version of the report follows:

"Prostitution is not a new problem but an old one which hasn't been considered until recently. In the evolution of humankind, almost all countries have faced problems related to prostitution. No state has successfully eradicated the practice of prostitution, but has only been able to regulate it. The practice of prostitution is often opposed in religious circles including by the community itself. It must be acknowledged that the practice of prostitution in East Timor is a social reality which can no longer be ignored. Because it is a social reality it may appear that the community has adopted a permissive attitude towards it, however the practice of prostitution goes against morals, decency and religion and can destroy the family unit at any time.

When commercial sex workers have been arrested by the police in Dili, some religious leaders have taken a moderate attitude towards the practice as a social reality and don’t look at the practice itself but at the factors which push a person into the world of prostitution. According to statements made by these religious leaders, the factors to be considered are the behaviour of the individual and the education provided by parents, which needs to be improved because in East Timor acculturation has occurred through the various nations present during the UNTAET period.

In the midst of this reaction to the practice of prostitution, prostitution has not decreased but actually appears to be on the rise. Besides acculturation, this has occurred due to factors such as economic and stress as people are betrayed by their boy/girl friends, environmental factors and even the divorce of parents.

Whilst the practice of prostitution is an activity which destroys morals and attitudes and can also destroy the family unit, the positive law system of RDTL doesn’t prohibit the practice of prostitution but only prohibits people from providing a location or facilitating the practice of prostitution. This is regulated by article 296 of the Criminal Law Code which states that: “Any person intentionally instigating or facilitating indecent acts by others, who makes this a source of income or a routine practice, may face a maximum prison term of one year and four months or a maximum fine of fifteen thousand rupiah”.

Looking at these provisions, a regulation is required to comprehensively regulate both pimps and those prostitutes who don't work through pimps but provide prostitution services directly. The government must play a big part in trying to reduce the practice of prostitution, by providing rehabilitation programs with relevant government departments working together. The community must also play a large role to support government initiatives to reduce the practice of prostitution. Law enforcement agencies must also take a firm stance in implementing regulations, which prohibit the practice of prostitution." Read more...


Nota bene: The views expressed in the report on prostitution do not necessarily reflect those of the author of the East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin.

See also - Foreigners arrested in East Timor prostitution swoop - ABC Radio Australia 17/01/2008 - Eighty-seven foreign nationals have been arrested for prostitution and drug offences in East Timor.

The arrests were part of a joint crackdown between the nation's police force and officers from the United Nations. East Timor police say the 87 foreigners were arrested at a number of bars.

Most of them were women involved in prostitution and illegal drugs and are from from Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Thailand.

The latest arrests follow a raid on two bars earlier this year that netted 28 foreign nationals over suspected human trafficking.A United States State Department report last year identified East Timor as a destination country for women trafficked from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

See also - UN under fire for turning blind eye to peacekeepers' misconduct 7 May 2007 - Lindsay Murdoch Sydney Morning Herald -Teenage Timorese prostitutes gather just before dusk opposite a hotel on Dili's waterfront where drivers in United Nations vehicles can be seen picking them up and driving away.

"It's disgusting … these people who have supposedly come here to help the Timorese are abusing these poor girls," says an Australian mechanic drinking in the hotel's second-floor bar, who observes the scene every night.

Some of the 2000 UN police and civilian staff from more than 40 countries are openly violating what the UN promised would be a "zero tolerance" policy towards sexual abuse and misconduct in the deeply religious country, sources say.

Expatriates say a dozen brothels have recently opened in Dili, and that vehicles with UN markings can be seen parked outside them most nights.

One of the brothels is employing a dozen ethnic-Chinese prostitutes, expatriates say. Read more...

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