Paulina Quintao – Increased reporting of domestic violence cases and the establishment of more shelters are the two major achievements during the implementation of the national action plan on gender-based violence (NPA-GBV) over the past three years.
The National Director for Gender Development Policy, Henrique da Silva, said the result was through the efforts of the government and women's organizations, with support from development partners.
Good progress has been made particularly in terms of prevention, which is largely due to increased awareness about the issue, he said.
"People mostly understand the law against domestic violence and they know how to report it when it happens," said da Silva at a national workshop in Dili to discuss revisions to the national action plan on gender-based violence.
"There is a change, we see many shelters, and more will be established in Bobonaro municipality," she said.
The Psychosocial Recovery and Development in East Timor (PRADET) organization has also been working with the Health Ministry to establish further services for victims and forensic examinations can now be performed at referral hospitals.
Although many domestic violence cases are now being reported and this is good progress, he said what people really wanted to see was a reduction in rates and combating violence in the family.
"It (the campaign) is not only telling the community how to report it (violence), but also telling the community how to avoid it," he said. However, he said access to formal justice remained problematic, with a high number of domestic violence cases still pending in the court.
"We need to improve the human resources because they are not adequate enough to handle the cases," he said. He said court decisions in domestic violence cases needed to be looked at as many perpetrators only received lenient suspended sentences.
The government is also prioritizing efforts to improve coordination between the ministries and civil society in order to create a proper mechanism for monitoring activities, he said.
The NPA-GBV was developed under domestic violence law No. 7/2010 as a guideline for the government and the non-government organizations to implement their programs for 2012-2014.
The implementation of the NPA was completed in 2014, but the Secretary of State for the Socio-Economic Support for Women (SEM) then revised the plan and developed a new plan with the same objectives to be implemented over a five-year period.
Meanwhile, Fatuhada village chief Marcelino Soares said domestic violence was a public crime and should be processed according to the formal justice system, depending on the victim's wishes.
"When the victim wants to process their case the village chief can help to refer the case, but if the victim doesn't want [to take further action], it is their right," he said.
"The village chief can help to resolve the problem when the suspect and victim agree." He said the two main functions of the village chief were to implement laws in the suku (village) and as a cultural representative to resolve community problems.