20 June 2014

Fundasaun Mahein: Sexual Violence Continues to Rise in Timor-Leste Amidst Government Inaction

ETLJB 20/06/2014 - From Fundasaun Mahein: This past week, reports surfaced that a mother and her daughter were raped before being killed and thrown into the ocean at Area Branca. Fundasaun Mahein (FM) received reports that there were at least three men involved in the targeted attack, at least one of whom was a taxi driver.  In a separate incident taking place on the 21st of January, a 12 year-old girl was raped in Comoro by an older man.  The victim took her case to the police, but authorities have still not apprehended the perpetrator.  

These incidents are just the latest in a growing and increasingly worrisome trend of violence targeted against women and children in Timor-Leste. It is not the first time Fundasaun Mahein has reported on this trend, nor is it the first time sexual violence has been linked to taxi drivers in Timor. This past August FM published a blog post examining the relationship between growing organized crime and sexual violence in Timor-Leste.  One of the cases cited was the abduction and gang-rape of a woman taking a taxi in the area of the US embassy.  

Another troubling aspect of violent crimes in Timor-Leste is the increasingly accepted trend of publicly posting pictures of victims to social media sites like Facebook.  In the wake of this recent case involving the deaths of a mother and her daughter, there has been widespread dissemination of pictures and personal information about the two victims on the Internet.  This practice is unacceptable.  It is a breach of victim privacy and could also potentially affect the investigation of the crime.

Fundasaun Mahein asserts that the Ministry of Justice should publicly address this issue and work to prevent people from posting pictures of victims.  At the very least, the public should be encouraged to only publicize pictures with censored identities (blurred or black-out faces).  In addition, the Ministry of Justice should do more to provide public acknowledgement and information on violent crimes, especially for highly publicized cases.  A steady and transparent stream of information from a respected and credible source like the Ministry of Justice will help to dispel rumors, and will deter people from feeling the need to post personal information of victims on social media sites.

The rise of sexual violence can be viewed as a byproduct of a more prevalent cultural attitude that marginalizes women in Timor-Leste.  It is imperative that the government does everything in its power to reverse this pattern and protect the women and children of this nation.  Female leaders in the government should lead the charge to push reform for women’s rights and protections.   These reforms must include increasing the capacity for law enforcement to investigate and successfully prosecute sexual and violent offenders.      

FM also recommends that specific legislation be passed to address the unregulated taxi industry in Timor-Leste.  If the government wants its citizens to feel safe using taxis, it should take more steps to ensure that drivers have no criminal history or connections to organized crime. Source: http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2014/02/04/sexual-violence-continues-to-rise-amidst-government-inaction-2/ 

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