Spring 1998
Congress Bars Use of U.S. Weapons in East Timor

Indonesian Military Training Continues Despite Ban

Constâncio Pinto Joins ETAN Staff

APECT III Meets in Bangkok

ETAN Hosts Activist Training Conferences

José Ramos-Horta Inspires St. Louis Activists

Massachusetts East Timor Bill Update

Member News

Indonesia - On the verge of change?

Torture and Fear of Torture Actualized

Postcard from Timor

U.S. Should Help East Timor

Youth Resistance in East Timor

Estafeta -
Spring 1998
Spring 1997

Review: Women’s Rights in East Timor
From One Day to Another: Violations of Women’s Reproductive and Sexual Rights in East Timor by Miranda E. Sissons
East Timor Human Rights Centre, Melbourne, Australia. 1997
Review by Sonya Hurston, ETAN Northern California

Human rights abuses in East Timor are well-documented. Abuses affecting only women, however, have been left largely unresearched and under-reported. Miranda Sissons’ "From One Day to Another: Violations of Women’s Reproductive and Sexual Rights in East Timor helps fill this serious gap.

In less than 50 pages, Sissons presents East Timorese women’s voices, Indonesian and international human rights laws, and a clear overview of Indonesian reproductive health programs and policies. Her report not only unearths important data on Indonesia’s human rights record in East Timor; it also provides information about women’s rights and the Family Planning (KB) program in Indonesia. Most importantly, the report describes what women in East Timor must live through "from one day to another."

Sissons’ book documents frequent reports of rape, cruel and degrading treatment, and sexual servitude to Indonesian soldiers in East Timor. Her primary focus is the role of the KB program in systematizing human rights abuses.

While this program has received international recognition (Suharto twice received the UN Population medal) for its "effectiveness," it has repeatedly been described as violating women’s rights to information, contraceptive choice, and overall health.

Sissons’ report describes how severe and systematic violations of women’s reproductive and sexual rights in East Timor have contributed to a strong belief in East Timor that the KB program is "used by the Indonesian government as a politically-motivated instrument to deliberately undermine the survival of the East Timorese as a national group."

Sissons explains that the same military which has killed hundreds of thousands of East Timorese since 1975 helps recruit for the KB program. "If we do not go, our fathers or brothers will be persecuted," one East Timorese woman explains. It is not just the military, however, that is distrusted.

Women in East Timor tell stories of friends and relatives losing babies in Indonesian-controlled hospitals or becoming sterile after receiving mysterious injections. Female high school students describe being injected with "vaccinations" that often stop menstruation.

"Fear of the KB program," Sissons writes, "has severely undermined the efficacy of the government health system in East Timor. According to statistics in the UN World Population Report (1996), the death rate in East Timor is double that in Indonesia and the worst in Southeast Asia. Infant mortality in East Timor outstrips even that of Rwanda and Iraq. Yet women are unwilling to turn to the government health system for fear of covert injection or sterilisation."

"From One Day to Another" provides data that is well substantiated and staggering. This evidence shows the Indonesian government to be complicit in willful abuse of East Timorese women. Sissons speaks with the authority of international agreements, Indonesian law and with human concern. Sissons’ research is impressive and her writing powerful.

Anyone who wishes to better understand the status of human rights in East Timor should read this report. And the credibility and effectiveness of those working in solidarity with the people of East Timor will only be strengthened by a better understanding of the daily lives of East Timorese women.

"From One Day to Another" is available from the ETAN National Office for $6 (postpaid). Its author, Miranda Sissons, is on the ETAN Executive Committee and currently lives in New York.