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Asia Foundation Releases Understanding Violence Against Women Study in Timor-Leste

Dili, May 18, 2016 — Today, The Asia Foundation’s Nabilan Program: Ending Violence against Women in Timor-Leste, funded by the Australian Government, launched a ground-breaking report, Understanding Violence against Women and Children in Timor-Leste: Findings from the Nabilan Baseline Study.


Launch event in Dili.

Ending violence against women and children in Timor-Leste is a top priority of the Australian and Timorese governments, as well as the main focus area of the Nabilan Program. The Nabilan Baseline Study adopted an innovative, combined methodology to conduct research with both women and men, to both understand women’s experiences of violence, as well as men’s perpetration and experiences of violence. The survey of women, which provides data on the prevalence and risk factors of both sexual and physical violence experienced by women, as well on coping and help-seeking behavior, was nationally representative. The survey of men, which focuses primarily on their use of violence and associated factors, is representative of two municipalities in Timor-Leste. Male and female respondents were also surveyed about their experiences of abuse and trauma earlier in life, as well as their attitudes and perceptions regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence in the home.

“What the Study shows us is that we need to shift attitudes. We need to address gender inequality and tolerance of violence. And we need to ensure safe and healthy childhoods, free from violence.  This is all of our responsibility,” said Peter Doyle, the Australian Ambassador to Timor-Leste.

The study revealed that 59 percent of women aged 15-49 in Timor-Leste have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 47 percent in the 12 months before the interview. This confirms the urgent need for sensitive, women-centered services, free of stigma, that address the physical as well as mental health needs of women, but also children who have experienced or witnessed violence in the home. Nabilan supports local partners to increase the quality of services and reach for women and children affected by violence. These services range from access to shelters, medical forensic examinations, counselling support, livelihood and reintegration support, and legal assistance for women seeking justice.

Nabilan is also working with national civil society organizations to develop evidence-based prevention activities. The baseline findings highlight the need to work with children, in particular adolescent boys, to both protect them from violence (as childhood physical and sexual abuse was significantly associated with both the experience of violence by women in adulthood and the perpetration of violence by men as adults) as well as address attitudes and perceptions that normalize or excuse violence, especially violence by men against women. Work is also needed within couples and households, as well as the broader community, to address attitudes and behaviors amongst adults that are significantly associated with violence.

“To create the needed change—that is, to truly end violence against women, by changing the behaviors, norms, and attitudes that promote gender inequality—evidence is needed. Evidence, from both male and female respondents, not only on the scale and severity of the problem, but evidence on the beliefs, past experiences, and other factors that increase the risk of violence against women,” said Country Representative for The Asia Foundation in Timor-Leste Susan Marx.

The findings will also aid the Government of Timor-Leste in shaping responses in order to meet both national and international commitments to promote women’s rights in Timor-Leste, and address gender inequality as a key barrier to sustainable development. As noted by Marx, “We feel confident that the government of Timor-Leste, in particular our partners at the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Secretary of State for the Support and Socio-economic Promotion of Women, will draw on these findings in targeting their own programs for ending violence against women and children, in terms of budgeting for much-needed services for those affected by violence, as well as developing their own evidence-based prevention programs, in alignment with the recent CEDAW Concluding Observations.”

The study adapted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women to conduct a women’s prevalence survey, and used the United Nations’ (UN) Multi-country Study on Men and Violence as the basis for a men’s perpetration survey. These international best-practice methodologies were used because of the high level of data reliability they produce, the ability to make cross-country comparisons, and their internationally recognized ethical and safety standards.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

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Related locations: Timor-Leste
Related programs: Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality

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