27 March 2009

Enhancing Access to Justice for Women in East Timor

TAF/JSMP-VSS : Press release 27 March 2009 Enhancing Access to Justice for Women: 35 Legal Aid Lawyers Receive Specialized Training in Gender-Based Violence Cases

To enhance the legal assistance provided to Timorese women and young victims of gender violence, The Asia Foundation and the Victim Support Service (VSS) is hosting a three-day legal aid training from 25-27 March, 2009 at the Sao Paulo Training Centre in Comoro, Dili. Speakers at the training will include a representative from the Office of the Prosecutor-General, the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the PNTL, and from local NGOs Pradet and Fokupers.

The activity is part of the USAID-supported Access to Justice Program, which is implemented by The Asia Foundation. The event is co-organized by VSS, which has specialized in providing legal assistance to victims of gender-based violence since 2005.

Thirty-five legal aid lawyers from VSS, Fundasaun Edukasaun Comunidade Matebian (ECM), Fundacao Fatu Sinai Oecusse (FFSO), LBH-Covalima, LBH-Ukun Rasik An will attend the training.

As in many countries, prosecuting gender-based violence cases pose enormous challenges for lawyers. In Timor-Leste, women face the added challenges of the social stigma of domestic violence, as well as a nascent justice system.

'The many obstacles that women face in seeking justice for gender-based violence – such as the lack of women’s voices in traditional dispute resolution mechanisms, inaccessibility of the courts to most women – can only be overcome with access to justice strategies specifically targeting the needs of women,' says Silas Everett, country representative of The Asia Foundation.

Through its Access to Justice Program, funded by USAID, The Asia Foundation in Timor-Leste has been supporting five legal aid organizations, which provide free legal assistance and have a dedicated focus on female clients. Through this program, hundreds of women have received free legal assistance.

“By providing training to lawyers and sharing the experiences of VSS over the past four years, we can hopefully help to strengthen the chances of successful prosecutions for gender-based violence in Timor-Leste,” says Sribuana da Costa, coordinator of VSS. “Through this training, we hope to enhance the gender perspective of lawyers and judicial actors to see that real justice always comes from placing the victim as the central figure in the legal structure”.

For further information or to arrange an interview with either The Asia Foundation (+670 723-0922) or the Victim Support Service (+670 723 3711).

Image added by ETLJB: East Timorese women in church.

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