Subject: Abortion, defamation addressed in ETimor's new penal code

ABC Radio Australia

Abortion, defamation part of ETimor's new penal code

Updated October 16, 2008 21:33:24

East Timor's government has released the final draft of the nation's first penal code.

Radio Australia's Stephanie March reports that Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao says the new penal code encompasses East Timorese values and is an important step towards a fully democratic society.

The highly anticipated draft clearly outlines the status of two controversial issues - abortion and defamation.

In keeping with the strong beliefs of the predominantly Catholic population, the code defines abortion as a criminal offence, unless the health of the mother or child is in extreme danger.

The nation's journalists are relieved by the decriminalization of defamation.

The Council of Ministers is due to pass legislation to put the code into affect within the next 45 days.

If passed it will replace the Indonesian Penal Code used in East Timor since the beginning of occupation in 1975

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