New Campaign Supports Timorese Women’s Legal Sector Representation Featured

By The INDEPENDENTE October 09, 2023 255

DILI:  Efforts to increase the women’s quota in Timor-Leste’s decision-making bodies will be strengthened this week when Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Justice in partnership with United Nations Development Programme and State Secretariat for Equality launch a new program to support women into legal careers.

The launch event, entitled "Women in Legal Careers: Challenges and Contributions,” aims to empower women in the legal sector, tackle gender-based violence, and strengthen the representation of women in decision-making bodies, according to UNDP statement. Equality campaigners expressed approval at the move.

Timor-Leste faces significant gender equality challenges in its legal institutions, with less than 24% female representation in the judicial sector, while gender-based violence remains a pressing social issue.

“The need to promote gender diversity and equal opportunity in decision-making bodies is evident,” said Nelson Philomeno Rego De Jesus, the Access to Justice Project Manager for UNDP.

Rego De Jesus highlighted how Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) underscores the importance of eliminating discrimination against women in political and public life, emphasising the need for measures that support equal representation.

Additionally, campaigners say Timor-Leste grapples with high youth unemployment rates, especially among young women that limit them entering the labour market and contributing to any decision-making body.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), female unemployment rates in Timor-Leste are notably higher, making the legal sector's employability challenges even more pronounced.

The new event seeks to address the barriers young women face in pursuing careers in the legal profession.

Across Timor-Leste, gender-based violence is the largest category of crimes reported to police, with 59% of ever-partnered women aged 15-19 experiencing intimate partner violence at lease once in their lifetime, according to data from The Asia Foundation.

The UNDP has said this figure only represents a fraction of real cases, as the organization said most instances of domestic violence are dealt with informally and never reported to law enforcement.

President of the Republic Jose-Ramos Horta, in his speech at the UN General Assembly last month, acknowledged that Timor-Leste has a “high and unacceptable incidence of domestic violence.”

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