Paulina Quintao – The Executive Director of the Legal Assistance for Women and Children (ALFeLa) Merita Correia said in 2014, 46% of cases it received pertained to cases of 16 year old girls who were sexually assaulted by a close relative and other people.
The percentage represents almost half of the number of victims who received legal assistance from ALFeLa through the formal justice process in 2014.
"Some 46% of underage 16 girls were sexually abused by their uncles, fathers and neighbors," said Director Correia after launching annual reports at the ALFeLa hall in Vila-Verde, Dili.
ALFeLa's data collected for 2014 shows that 132 persons (29%) fell victim to sexual assault and of the number 61 girls (46%) under the age of 16 were sexually assaulted by a close relative and other people.
ALFeLa and its partners are making advocacy of the government's and legislative policies to produce a specific article to be included in Penal Code Article 163 pertaining to the crime of incest.
"Evidence concerning incest is easily obtained but it's hard prove the evidence when incest happens to a young single woman as a victim seldom comes forward against her father," said Correia.
This is why ALFeLA is urging the government to criminalise incest to include for cultural and religious beliefs in Timor-Leste.
The National Commissioner for The Rights of the Child (KNDL) Maria Barreto has concerns that the rates of sexual assault against underage girls seems to be increasing every year. She added that KNDL will continues to make advocacy of governmental policies to take the issue into account to ensure that justice is for all.
"We are responsible for making advocacy of policies and responsible decision-making, in particular making some alterations and revisions to the existing penalty code as the code is unlikely to protect the victims of incest," said Commissioner Barreto.
In 2014, KNDL organised a meeting with civil societies, legislators and governors to talk about the rights of the victims of incest.
Commissioner Barreto added that at that meeting, current Minister of Justice Dr. Ivo Jorge Valente and several Members of Parliament agreed to make amendments that would alter the Penal Code Article 163 to include the crime of incest.