21 August 2009

UNMIT: Baseline study on sexual and gender-based violence in Covalima and Bobonaro districts released

Baseline study on sexual and gender-based violence in Covalima and Bobonaro districts released

Source: United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT)

Date: 13 Aug 2009

Dili, 13 August 2009 - Tradition, culture of silence, domination and inequality, ignorance of rights, the lack of law, weakness of the judiciary system, as well as economic dependence are among the key factors that make women more vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence.

These were revealed in a baseline study on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in selected communities within the districts of Covalima and Bobonaro of Timor-Leste situated along the border with Indonesia. The districts were chosen because of its geographical isolation from Dili and are known to be more prone to human trafficking with a high number of reported sexual violence cases.

Patriarchal belief of women's role in Timorese society, religion and preconceived notion of sexuality make the subject near unquestionable. In Bobonaro, within the Maliana and Balibo sub-districts, talk of sexual violence in the community is close to taboo. Keeping silent is the most common response to SGBV throughout Timor-Leste. As the head of a village in Bobonaro puts it, "why should we raise the issue, we should only discuss these amongst each other".

The study was released on 13 August at 2.30pm at the National University of Timor-Leste by the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI), Ms. Idelta Rodrigues.

The research was conducted by the Asia Pacific Support Collective –Timor-Leste from May to October 2007.

Noting on the importance of the study, Ms. Rodrigues stressed that sexual assault is not about sex but about power and reflects the extent to which the basic human rights of women and children are undervalued in Timorese society.

She points that the abuse and its impacts need to be understood before recovery can even begin and for many women the first step to dealing with any of sexual abuse is to tell people.


For the researchers field observation include staying with survivors of SGBV in their shelters and safe houses.

In Timor-Leste the researchers found that organised prostitution and internal trafficking usually occurs from the poorer remote areas such as Covalima to the towns. In the Tilomar sub district in Covalima, it involves the complicity of the head of the village.

In these remote areas, parents often lack information and education about human rights. Young women are often forced into situations of abuse and sexual exploitation mainly due to financial need by their parents.

The baseline study is part of a global UNIFEM programme Supporting Women's Engagement in Peace Building and Preventing Sexual Violence: Community-led Approaches funded by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID). It is an on-going effort to engage community decision-makers, local police and informal institution to respond to the needs of women during and after the conflict. The research has involved contributions from women's organisations in Timor-Leste.

The findings will be used as information and basic reference for the service providers to plan and better address the needs of the sexual violence victims. With the study, the researchers from the APSC-TL hope to provide impetus and strengthen the approval of the Law Against Domestic Violence and its implementation in the future which includes the strengthened linkages of support and concerted response towards the protection of the SGBV survivors.

For more information to the full report, please contact:

Beba Sequeira of the APSCTL-TL Research Team, Phone: 7237796, Email: nibesequeira@yahoo.com or buidere2003@yahoo.com

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