Paulina Quintao – The Ministry of Health in collaboration with international agencies is developing guidelines for health personnel to help provide better assistance to victims of gender-based violence in Timor-Leste.
Minister of Health Maria do Ceu said it was the government's responsibility to create a good policy and strategic plan to respond to the needs of victims of gender-based violence victims.
The Timor-Leste government has adopted international treaties, including the convention on children rights and Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
"In Timor the issue is very sensitive, so we should take a step towards responding to these situations," the minister said at the opening of an advocacy workshop on how the health sector can respond to gender-based violence.
She said the Ministry of Health had a good structure in place from village up to the national level, but it was not working effectively because health personnel had no guidelines to help address the issue. "Because it is sensitive and confidential," she added.
Meanwhile, regarding the establishment of a network of shelters for victims at referral hospitals, she said it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS).
The National Director of Gender Development Policy (NDGDP) in the Secretariat of State for Socio-Economic Support of Women (SEM), Henrique da Silva, said the Health Ministry had not adequately prioritised the issue.
"In practice, PRADET (Psychosocial Recovery and Development in East Timor) has covered the duty of the Health Ministry such as doing forensic tests, physical examinations and counseling," he said.
Meanwhile, PRADET Director Manuel do Santos said they had a good level of cooperation with the health sector to treat victims, particularly with the national and referral hospitals.
He said PRADET only did forensic testing, so if victims needed intensive treatment or to see a specialist they should go to the hospital.
"It is not necessary to establish more new spaces (shelters), just strengthen the facilities that PRADET and development partners already established in terms of investment in human resources and specialists," he said.
He added PRADET also has provided training to health personnel from Baucau, Manufahi, Covalima, Bobonaro, Dili and Oecusse about forensic examinations for victims.
Between January and July this year, PRADET provided forensic tests and counseling services to 300 victims of gender-based violence.
The one-day workshop was held at Hotel Novo Turismu in Dili and funded by the World Health Organization and UNFPA.