‘Hybrid’ laws key to reducing gender violence in Timor-Leste


CDU Law lecturer Jeswynn Yogaratnam.

CDU Law lecturer Jeswynn Yogaratnam.

Tackling entrenched violence against women in Timor-Leste will require a balance between modern justice and traditional law, according to a new book. 

Charles Darwin University Law lecturer Jeswynn Yogaratnam contributed a chapter to the book “Gender in Human Rights and Transitional Justice”, which highlights the complexities the post-conflict state faces in achieving gender justice.

Mr Yogaratnam said Timor-Leste ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which made legislating for those purposes almost a constitutional promise.

“The new criminal justice system treats domestic violence as a public crime and may be viewed as displacing traditional law, or ‘lisan’,” he said.

“There must be some conciliation in the form of hybridity when extending a modern justice system into a traditional society.”

Mr Yogaratnam said his chapter explored the role of non-government organisations as the “change agents” that work to identify gaps in legislation and drive reform in post-conflict states, to help achieve better outcomes for victims of gender violence.

“Civil societies engage with community leaders who may influence a change in attitude, to bridge the gap between awareness of women’s rights in urban and rural areas while dealing with underlying tensions between formal and traditional law,” he said. 

“This means lisan does not become passé, but rather a form of restorative justice for traditional ceremonial expectations of healing within the community.” 

“Gender in Human Rights and Transitional Justice”, published by Palgrave Macmillan, explores the progress and challenges women face in post-conflict areas worldwide.

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