Paulina Quintao – The numbers of domestic violence victims accessing formal justice has increased since last year, according to Psychosocial Recovery and Development in Timor-Leste (PRADET).
Coordinator of PRADET's Fatin Hakmatek (safe room) program Luis Marcal said this was due in part to the good working relationship between PRADET and other networks, which had helped speed up the processing of cases in comparison to previous years.
"It seems like some progress has been made as the process in court has been running effectively," Marcal said at his office in Bidau, Dili.
However, he said greater efforts were still needed in order to provide effective assistance and proper justice to victims, particularly those whose cases were still pending.
The Director of the Timorese Women's Communication Forum (FOKUPERS), Marilia Alves, said the lenient penalties handed down by the courts also needed to be examined. "The penalties need to be revised as they are often suspended sentences," she said.
Alves said last year the Department of Prosecution established a special unit to work on domestic violence and child abuse cases.
Member of the Parliamentary Women's Caucus (GMPTL) MP Josefa Alvares Pereira Soares said many domestic violence cases were suspended as some victims opted not to proceed.Soares said victims often continued living peacefully with the defendants, while their cases were being processed and therefore the courts were reluctant to intervene or cause a divorce between the couple.
She also urged women to be consistent with the statements they provided in order to reach a workable solution and not to report domestic issues out of anger or emotion.