Radio Australia - Timor MP urges passage of domestic violence law Updated March 3, 2009 12:06:37 This year marks ten years since East Timor's historic independence ballot.
And while progress has been made in that decade - problems remain. A US State Department report released last week raised human rights issues, including concerns over the level of domestic violence and child abuse.
Presenter: Tom Fayle
Speaker: Fernanda Borges, leader of the National Unity Party
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BORGES: Tom it's actually a film that some people here have worked hard to produce over the years. I haven't actually seen the film myself; I'm really looking forward to be able to view it together with other Australian friends that are interested. So I will be able to speak more on that after I've seen the film. At the moment I'm just glad that there is something that we can put out during International Women's Day that will also embrace the East Timor resistance as well as the women's suffering and needs in the country.
FAYLE: We understand though that the film does celebrate the role of women in Timorese village life but what about women in Timor's public life, the parliament does tend to be dominated by men in their 60s, isn't that right?
BORGES: That's very true, we are still in the early stages of getting women into political life. I'm one of the very, very few in East Timor that have been able to scratch the surface, but in order to be able to achieve a more equitable participation in our political life more women need to be able to be given the chance. And the men that are currently in these positions need to offer the space for the women to be able to do that, otherwise it'll be very much the old views which we are perpetrating for the future, and that might not be the best approach for the country or the people.
FAYLE: So there are just a handful of women in the East Timor parliament to date?
BORGES: Yes and that's been the cause of the quota that we have in place but having women just in parliament is simply not sufficient, it's giving them the voice that the people are looking for. We're beginning to start to do that but I myself from my personal experience find that that's not being done as openly as what we could achieve. It's being smothered because it's seen as a threat for the male dominant political force in the country. Women are very much well regarded in fact, an IRI survey that was conducted showed that women are regarded as trustworthy and they would like to see more in the country's political life We hope that in the future more space is given to these women like myself to be able to do something.
FAYLE: Outside the party parliamentary political arena what are your main concerns for women in East Timor? What about that issue of domestic violence mentioned in that State Department report?
BORGES: Well that's an issue that's been longstanding, the actual law on domestic violence has become very much a protracted affair. I have been asking for that law from this government for a long time now. Unless we have the legal framework in which to combat this issue it will be impossible. And then the second battle is to work on the cultural issues, to make domestic violence a shame for the perpetrator rather than the woman that is confronting the violence, to make community pressure on these perpetrators a force that will stop them, prevent them from doing that violence. But before that can happen we need that law and the quicker the AMP government puts that law out the better. That's been around, the draft's been around the previous government, it was going to be finetuned, but we still haven't seen the law. So until that law is promulgated by the President of the Republic very little can be done, and that is going to cause a lot more suffering for women in East Timor.
FAYLE: Alright you're also the parliament's representative on the Council on Defence and Security I understand, and you have raised concerns about what you say is the security threat posed by former militia members now based in West Timor. A lot of people would have thought that that threat had dissipated long ago?
BORGES: No it hasn't because impunity runs rife; as you're probably aware there have been no prosecutions whatsoever for the human rights and war crimes in the country during the resistance period, over 25 years, and during the 1999. A lot of the militias that are there perpetrated gross human rights violations in '99 that have to be trialled in a court of law. Now at the moment that has not happened but they are running for quite important political positions in the upcoming elections, and that could be a danger for stability in East Timor as well as the region.
Images added by ETLJB: President of the East Timor National Unity Party, Ms. Fernanda Borges.
The banner of the East Timor PUN (Partido Unidade Nasional)
Voices of East Timor