Members of East Timor’s National Council transition legislature justified Friday their rejection of quotas for women candidates on party election lists.
Avelino Coelho of the Timorese Socialist Party (PST) and Angela Freitas of the Labor Party (PT) called a press conference to “clarify positions”. The Council had earlier this week approved an election law package, rejecting however one controversial article that tied government support for parties to mandatory quotas for women on party lists.
The article had been proposed by the UN as an alternative to a recommendation on the transition calendar approved by the National Council on Feb. 23. The legislation in question concerns the framework for electing the territory’s Constituent Assembly, which will draft and approve a future national constitution.
East Timor, which had been occupied by Indonesia for 24 years, voted for independence in Aug. 1999. The half-island has since been governed by a UN transition administration (UNTAET) charged with preparing it for full independence, likely within the next year.
Avelino Coelho said that the article in question was unacceptable for Council members, who could never support the “commercialization” of women. He specified that if the quotas were linked to UN support, then the parties would be “more interested in receiving UNTAET support than in East Timorese women”.
“We believe the quota system differentiates the position of women. The article openly and shamefully commercializes East Timorese women”, Coelho said, adding that “equality of rights” would in any case imply a quota of 50 percent and not 30.
Simultaneous to the press conference, a group of several dozen protesters from East Timor’s most prominent women’s rights organizations demonstrated in front of the Government Palace in Dili.
Council members subsequently came out of the building to explain the decisions to the crowd.
After the press conference, Council members addressed the demonstrators, reiterating that all continued to defend “the emancipation of women and equality” of rights between sexes, despite rejection of the article on mandatory quotas.
See these items on women's
Women and the upcoming election
Sexual & Other Violence
Women and the upcoming election:
NOTE: Mar 20 Dear BACK DOOR, The petition [for women's quotas] is over, the battle lost! for now ... Best wishes, Catherine Scott, Catholic Institute for International Relations
8 CIIR: Women's Representation to ETimor's Constituent Assembly Petition
"East Timorese women have been politically marginalised for long enough. They have made it clear that they want to have a much stronger voice in the new East Timor. ... CIIR calls upon individuals, NGOs, solidarity groups and East Timor networks everywhere to add your support to REDE's concerns and to lobby the United Nations in New York, your governments, and UNTAET to take into account the legitimate aspirations of East Timorese women." Catholic Institute for International Relations, CIIR
24 CIIR: Update on Women's Quotas Campaign Update
"The UN Electoral Assistance Division in New York refuses to set what they regard as a precedent for UN supervised elections in the future by allowing women's quotas to be a feature of the forthcoming election in East Timor, and are threatening to pull out of supervising the elections if the quotas are pursued." Catherine Scott, Catholic Institute for International Relations
1 ETAN/US: Letter on women and upcoming election Letter
"Although they have made many contributions to their society through the independence movement, literacy campaigns, and other community service efforts, East Timorese women remain one of the most marginalized segments of the population. ... We hope that UNTAET will, at the behest of the East Timorese society it serves and in keeping with the United Nations’ commitment to women’s empowerment worldwide, rule in favor of a requirement for at least 30 percent women candidates in the upcoming elections in East Timor." Charles Scheiner, National Coordinator, East Timor Action Network
Mar 16 LUSA: National Council
Members Explain Rejection of Quotas for Women News added
"Members of East Timor’s National Council transition legislature justified Friday their rejection of quotas for women candidates on party election lists. ... Simultaneous to the press conference, a group of several dozen protesters from East Timor’s most prominent women’s rights organizations demonstrated in front of the Government Palace in Dili." JBC
17 TP: The Dynamic Of ‘Quota Politic’ Editorial from ETimor
"We have spoken many times on women’s demand for a 30 % quota and do not want to say more. Except that, Timorese can emulate the example set by REDE (East Timor Women Network) yesterday at UNTAET headquarters. We welcome the day when the actions of interest groups or political groups are based on dialogue, debate and discussion. ... REDE has shown the correct political path for our country. We hope that future political actions for democracy in our country will take into account this dynamism. This is the democratic model that needs to be created in our country." Timor Post Editorial
Mar 20 Dear BACK DOOR, The petition [for women's quotas] is over, the battle lost! for now ... Best wishes, Catherine Scott, Catholic Institute for International Relations
Mar 12 TP: Garcia: International
Women’s Day News from ETimor
"To commemorate International Women’s Day in East Timor, women’s organisations such as Et-Wave, Fokupers, OMT, OPMT and youth organisations joined in a long procession." Rosa Garcia
17 2000 LHB: Vision for a People-Centered Health System in East Timor
"Preventative [health], rather than curative, strategies are at the center. Local involvement and empowerment is the key. Village women are the number one health resource of East Timor. They, more than anyone, exhibit concern for health in the community."
Dan Murphy, Bairo Pite Clinic, Dili
REDE: Feto Timor Lorosae Timorese Women's Network
The Popular Organisation of East Timorese Women / Organizacao Popular de
OPMT (FRETILIN's women's organisation) emerged in 1975, to promote the emancipation of women in all aspects of life, appropriate to their evolving role in East Timor. As an East Timorese women's organisation OPMT has been dealing with the impact of Indonesian rule that has dominated their lives for the past 25 years culminating in the violence around the UN sponsored Popular Consultations in 1999. It is these women who have been dealing with those who have been severely psychologically and/or physically traumatised. They have been helping address the needs of women who are the main carers of children (many of whom are orphans), the injured, sick and the elderly.
Fokupers - Forum Komunikasi
Untuk Perempuan Loro Sae
Women's Development and Advocacy
Fokupers was founded in 1997. It focuses on political victims and gives counselling and other forms of assistance to women victims of violations, including ex political prisoners, war widows and wives of political prisoners. Its mandate also includes promoting women’s human rights among the local population, especially the East Timorese women. Fokupers is conducting workshops discussing ways to enhance or develop further women’s participation in Timorese society. Fokupers is focusing on receiving trauma counselling training for their staff in order to provide counsel to women victims.
ET-WAVE - East Timorese
Women Against Violence
East Timorese Women Against Violence, And For The Rights Of Women And Children (Formerly Gertak)
7 2000 CapT: Village Women of East Timor have great hope
"In their quest for economic empowerment, East Timorese women are fighting more than their country's current poverty -- under customary law, women cannot inherit or own property." Jen Laakso
5-6 2000 REDE: Women's Network statement to Brussels donor conference
"Although there have been achievements, progress is slow. Women’s lives in East Timor, as with the rest of the population continues to be arduous. For women this is more so because of the situation of women in Timorese society, cultural perceptions of women, the absence of clear laws which protect women and women’s limited participation in decision making." Filomena Reis, REDE: Feto Timor Loro Sae Timorese Women's Network
15 Guardian: Return of the Revolutionaries
"The discovery of the bodies of four women murdered with machetes in different parts of the country last summer passed almost unnoticed in East Timor. ... The tragedy for the women of East Timor is that those killed in the machete attacks were murdered by their own husbands or brothers. ... After years of a cruel and brutal conflict, the violence learned by the revolutionaries has now been turned on their women. Domestic violence has soared in the past year, according to Milena Pires, 34, a Timorese political lobbyist funded by the Catholic Institute for International Relations. Last year, 169 cases were documented and domestic violence is now the country's prevalent crime, making up 40% of all offences." Maggie O'Kane
Sexual & Other Violence:
1 NYT: Sexual Violence as Tool of War: Pattern Emerging in East Timor
"Mr. Senior [UN chief investigator of sex crimes] said the reports he had gathered suggest that some instances of mass rape coincided with massacres that occurred both before the independence vote — in April and May 1999 — and in the three weeks of destruction that followed the Aug. 30 vote. ... Ms. Alves [Timorese counselor] said it was possible that the rapes were part of the destruction of East Timor that investigators are now piecing together as an orchestrated scorched-earth policy commanded by Indonesia's military." Seth Mydans
Feb 23 ST: Rape in ETimor, Gusmao's wife criticizes Indonesia
5 JP: James Dunn interview on perpetrators of war crimes in Timor
"It has been appalling to hear Timorese women who have been raped; thousands have been raped and no one has been charged. I hope to see a change in that it would be good for military officers' careers to have to speak the truth." James Dunn, UNTAET
22 2000 IHT: A Family in East Timor Grieves for a Daughter
"Fate has not been kind to the dos Santos family. They have now lost all three children. The first son died from illness at a young age, the second was brutally murdered in the Suai church massacre - and now their only daughter has been kidnapped, raped and is living as a "wife" of one of the leaders of a militia gang responsible for the killing of her brother." Mark Dodd
22 2000 KY: Danish survey highlights trauma, torture in E. Timor
"Researchers found that torture had been widespread in East Timor. Of the six forms of torture listed in the study, 40% of the respondents said they had been subjected to psychological torture, 33% beaten or mauled, 26% hit on the head. Other forms of torture included submersion in water (12), electric shock (12), and crushing of hands (10). Five percent of the respondents said they had been raped or sexually abused. ... Twenty percent of the respondents said they witnessed the murder of a family member or friend, and the same percentage said they had children who had either been injured or from whom they had been separated. A further 12% said they had children who died as a result of political violence and in some districts there were reports of youngsters having been raped by the militia." Kyodo News Service, from a study by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
19 2000 AFP: Scars of vote violence remain real for many East Timor women
"Women's groups and rape investigators say the victims of militia rape and sex slavery continue to bear the scars of post-ballot violence in East Timor, facing ostracism on their return home. ... Fokupers has documented 46 cases of rape during last year's violence: nine of them by Indonesian soldiers, 28 by pro-Jakarta militias, and nine of them joint attacks by militias and soldiers. Eighteen were categorized as mass rapes." AFP
18 2000 Lancet: Torture & trauma in post-conflict East Timor
"To get an indirect measure of the effect of trauma on children, respondents were asked if they had children who were either injured or from whom they had been separated. 227 (22%) said yes, and a further 125 (12%) said that they had children who died as a result of political violence. In several provinces there were reports of children having been raped by the militia." Lancet, from a study by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
Jun 21 2000 Y-HAK: Lopes: Rekonciliasaun Housi Lei Nia Roman
"Hahalok at sira ne’e kulmina wainhira referendum 30 Agostu 1999 ramata, iha ne’ebe povo Timor Lorosa’e maioria hakotu nia hakarak atu sai housi kolonizasaun no okupasaun ne’ebe at, houdi sai povo ne’ebe ukun rasik an. Milicia pro-integrasaun ho tulun no ordem housi TNI hala’o operasaun bumi hangus (sunu mutuk), ne’ebe populasaun civil barak lori todan, liu-liu sira ne’ebe sira (milicia no TNI) konsidera pro-ukun rasik an. Iha operasaun ne’e, populasaun civil barak sai mutun (vitima), balun mate no feto sira ema viola (perkosa), barak mak sira tortura no obriga atu halai, sunu uma no lelan povu nia riku soin." Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Direktor, Yayasan HAK
21 2000 Y-HAK: Lopes: Reconciliation from a Legal Perspective
"The peak of this oppression occurred after the referendum of August 30, 1999, when an absolute majority of East Timorese society expressed their resolve for freedom from the despicable colonization and occupation practiced by Indonesia. In response, the Indonesian military and their pro-integration militia carried out their scorched earth policy. Countless civilians were victims of murder, rape, and various forms of torture. In addition, the military forced people to flee, burning and looting civilians' property." Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Director, Yayasan HAK
27 1999 Noam Chomsky: East Timor Retrospective - An overview and lessons
"Terror and destruction began early in the year. The TNI forces responsible have been described as "rogue elements" in the West, a questionable judgment. There is good reason to accept Bishop Belo's assignment of direct responsibility to commanding General Wiranto in Jakarta. It appears that the militias have been managed by elite units of Kopassus, the "crack special forces unit" that had "been training regularly with US and Australian forces until their behaviour became too much of an embarrassment for their foreign friends," veteran Asia correspondent David Jenkins reports. These forces are "legendary for their cruelty," Benedict Anderson observes: in East Timor they "became the pioneer and exemplar for every kind of atrocity," including systematic rapes, tortures and executions, and organization of hooded gangsters. They adopted the tactics of the U.S. Phoenix program in South Vietnam that killed tens of thousands of peasants and much of the indigenous South Vietnamese leadership, Jenkins writes, as well as "the tactics employed by the Contras" in Nicaragua, following lessons taught by their CIA mentors. The state terrorists were "not simply going after the most radical pro-independence people but going after the moderates, the people who have influence in their community." "It's Phoenix," a well-placed source in Jakarta reported: the aim is "to terrorise everyone" -- the NGOs, the Red Cross, the UN, the journalists." Noam Chomsky