Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: East Timorese woman addresses UN Security Council

UN Security Council ‘Arria formula’ meeting on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325

30 October 2001

Natércia Godinho-Adams East Timor

On behalf of East Timorese women’s organizations I thank you for resolution 1325.

In the last 25 years 96.6% of East Timorese experienced trauma. With the assistance of UNTAET’s Gender Unit and the leadership of Mr. de Mello, women obtained 26% of the seats in the recently elected Constituent Assembly. This remarkable achievement occurred despite the mixed messages from UN departments and ultimate rejection of the proposal that would have required 30% of each party’s political candidates to be women. The will of the East Timorese must be celebrated by continued efforts at expanding women’s roles within a patriarchal society.

Among several other successes, the formation of Timor Loro Sae’s Women’s Political Caucus, and the “Women’s Charter of Rights” mark an historical milestone in women’s commitment to peace, security, and justice.

While much progress has been made, much needs to be done. Rural women continue to be marginalized and grossly neglected. Post-conflict aid has not improved their lives as they continue to live in extreme poverty, and lack access to adequate health care, particularly pre- and post-natal care. They do not participate in decision-making at all levels of government and educational programs. A problem with the election process was voiced by several rural women who stated that: “they had been told who to vote for by their village chiefs.” This indicates a need for election observation efforts to be gender sensitive to women as voters and candidates.

Women and children frequently carry the greatest burden of crisis situations as a result of loss of income, unemployment and family displacement. Under traditional systems, women's leadership and decision-making roles were severely limited. However, while crisis creates serious problems for women it also creates opportunities. Men’s and women's roles changed substantially during the years of conflict and social disruption since 1974. A significant number of women assumed active roles in the clandestine liberation front and the armed resistance. They were soldiers, they smuggled medication, food, armament, and information to the resistant movement hiding in the mountains. Will the women benefit from the demobilization and reintegration programs supported by the UN? In the absence of the male household head, women assumed new responsibilities in traditional male income generation. East Timorese women want to build a society that will respect their newly acquired post-conflict roles, and will not force them to return to traditional powerless roles.

As you know from your visit to East Timor, family attachments have been disrupted, and women bear the psychological scars of the war. East Timorese women call for a concerted effort by the UN to help reunite displaced families, and in particular to bring together unaccompanied children who were separated as a result of the organized violence. We also call for a return of East Timorese refugees in West Timor, where women and children under the control of the militia are often sexually attacked and suffer from malnutrition and poor health. Widows and single mothers in East Timor have received little to no aid in the last two years. Currently, women who care for children with disabilities receive little to no support. A lack of support for women contributes to social ills already visible in Dili’s streets, such as prostitution, street children and child labor.

Women were targeted for sexual assault in a cruel and systematic way throughout the Indonesian occupation. Women were subjected to sterilization programs, stripping, rape, and other forms of sexual abuse and humiliation. Although there is a lack of data of the HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections there is an urgent need to raise awareness and take preventative measures. East Timorese women call upon the UN to provide resources for cost effective and community managed health promotion projects that cover reproductive health, communicable disease control and environmental health. Similarly, mental health programs must be included in health policies and funding allocation.

East Timorese women’s organizations have become increasingly concerned at the growing rate of domestic violence. One half of the cases of violence heard by the courts have been of domestic violence. While examining factors and drawing intervention strategies one thing is certain: women are breaking the traditional culture of silence by reporting acts of abuse that often involve their spouses or brothers.

We thank the UN for holding UN peacekeepers responsible for assaults on women. A Jordanian peacekeeper was indicted of rape on August 21 in a Dili court, and his trial is expected to begin shortly.

East Timorese women join the rest of society, including Bishop Belo, all political parties and NGOs in appealing for justice for serious crimes including gender-based crimes through an International Tribunal. Last year’s resolution on women, peace and security emphasized “the responsibility of all States to put an end to impunity and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes including those relating to sexual and other violence against women and girls.” Because Indonesia is unlikely to successfully prosecute those who ordered and implemented the invasion, occupation and destruction of East Timor from 1975 on, the Security Council must take immediate action to create an International Tribunal for East Timor to ensure that those most responsible for these crimes are brought to justice.

see also
UN Press Conference summary

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