UN leans on East Timor’s pro-life abortion laws

04 Jun 2009

By The Record

East Timor resisting legalised abortion.


Young East Timorese refugees play a game at Don Bosco Comoro camp outside Dili, East Timor, which has a population of about a million people, 98 per cent of whom are Catholic. Photo: CNS


NEW YORK (Zenit.org) – The predominantly Catholic nation of East Timor is under pressure from the United Nations for its laws that penalise abortion, even in the case of rape and incest.
The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reported last week that East Timor’s policies are being scrutinised by the UN committee responsible for overseeing compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which will meet for its 44th session in July.
The country’s new penal code, which will take effect at the beginning of June, continues to penalise the practice of abortion, though it adds an exception for cases where the mother’s health is in jeopardy.
A report from East Timor to the committee states that abortion is a “sensitive issue” in the country, “especially given the traumatic events of recent years” when a 24-year Indonesian occupation enforced family planning programs that were “widely resented” by the people. The report notes that in the Timorese culture, contraception is generally unpopular, as both men and women see it as “fueling promiscuity and sexually-transmitted diseases while decreasing the number of children.”
The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute stated that despite general support in East Timor for the continued criminalisation of abortion, several non-governmental organisations such as the Alola Foundation and Rede Feto, with the support of the UN Population Fund and the UN Children’s Fund, have been lobbying for more liberalised abortion laws. It also reports that under the guise of promoting “gender equality,” the UN committee is pushing for the “modification of customs and practices” regarded by them as “discriminatory.” Additionally, the UN body responds with opposition or indifference to Timor’s reference to their long-standing customs, distrust of foreign influence, and the “reproductive rights” abuses suffered by Timorese women under Indonesia’s rule.
The Timorese report states that the nation values gender distinctions as they help to protect the integrity of the family, as well as the well-being of women.