17 December 2008

Draft East Timor Penal Code a Postive Step for the Protection of Women


East Timor Judicial System Monitoring Progamme Press Release November 2008

The Women's Justice Unit of JSMP congratulates the Ministry of Justice for circulating the latest draft of the Timorese Penal Code to civil society for comment last month. This consultation demonstrates the government's commitment to a strong democratic process in the development of legislation that better reflects the conditions of Timor.

WJU considers that the introduction of the domestic Penal Code will give greater protection to women who are victims of gender based violence. In particular, WJU welcomes the expansion of the definition of rape to include rape in marriage and the inclusion of cohabitation as an aggravating, rather than mitigating, factor in assaults.

WJU also welcomes revisions that effectively decriminalise abortion in certain cases, such as where the physical or mental health of the mother would otherwise be at risk.

Further, under the proposed law, domestic violence will be a public crime, meaning the police will be permitted to arrest a suspect without the request of the victim. WJU views this provision as enforcing the fact that domestic violence is a crime.

However, further legislation is required to provide a strong legal structure to prevent violence against women.

WJU calls for the government to give priority to additional domestic violence legislation once the penal code is approved. This legislation will enhance the provisions of the proposed penal code and improve the formal justice sector approach to gender based violence.

It is anticipated that the draft penal code will be approved early next year.

For further information please contact: Maria Agnes Bere WJU Coordinator Email : maria@jsmp.minihub.org Landline : 3323883

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