Establishing a research agenda for Gender Studies in Timor Leste

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Discussion of the research priorities for gender studies in Timor-Leste, currently and in the future, is a worthy task that would focus attention on the most important issues for women and the politics of gender in contemporary Timor-Leste. As well as mapping the breadth of research (some of which appears here), such a task would have the added benefit of identifying the gaps and promoting much needed gender research in Timor-Leste. Mapping the priorities for research in the field of women’s studies and gender in TimorLeste and outlining how to further these priorities are significant tasks and suggestions are made here. Much more local analysis and informed public discussion of the structural power relations that foster gender discrimination and inequality within cultural practices and contemporary institutions should be encouraged. Some of this happens already with the very popular Gender Debate Programme organized by the Gender Studies Centre at the national university UNTL in Dili. A focus of a research agenda to understand better how gender relationshave come about would be how gender roles changed during colonial times and through conflict to become the modern gender roles and relations that exist in Timorese society today. The effect of patriarchy of the Portuguese colonial administration combined with its attendant Catholic Church has been little researched in Timor-Leste. I have assumed that it had a great effect on women’s status in East Timor and Richards shows us in her chapter here that some colonial-era ‘traditions’ heavily influenced by Catholic values have a significant impact today. It is unknown just how much Catholicism degraded women’s pre-colonial position and spiritual precedence and independence in indigenous society and more work could be done on this theme. Hagerdal and Kammen’s work suggests the next step of uncovering details of the lost queen’s lives that could only be accomplished by local historians and oral accounts with Lia na’ins and other informants. As there was little feminist anthropology being conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, very few anthropological accounts of Timor-Leste include women’s voices and perspectives. However, past work can always inform in new ways; and emerging Timorese anthropologists and foreign anthropologists with an interest in Timor, especially those associated with Timor for a significant time, such as ElisabethAnthropology Much wonderful work has already been carried out by East Timoresewomen, and some deeply engaged foreigners, to record women’s part in the struggle for national independence; but the task remains to accommodate this within the official record and history and to accomplish perhaps what Cunha suggests here: on readjusting the focus on men in Timor’s recent history to a more gender-equal view. Projects such as how the Veterans Museum and veterans programmes could be adjusted are important topics for analysis. What this might mean for the national story and the society and identity of Timorese people today remains an important question worthy of much more consideration. The more contemporary research issues of connections between economicinequality and domestic violence (DV) in TL have been initiated by The Asia Foundation and include the socio-economic factors that enable women to make active choices about staying in or leaving violent domestic relationships. Recent research has also been undertaken on the economic costs and benefits of pursuing justice-sector solutions compared with the continuing use of customary practices. Improving women’s economic situation and reducing the discrimination that is apparent in the Timorese economy is crucial to reducing violence; opportunities for women’s livelihoods that reduce women’s vulnerability are sorely needed. The true cost of DV to the Timorese economy has never been calculated.Such an approach should not be understood as a simple economic exercise, but as the collection of a solid base of evidence for use in policy-making and advocacy and to strengthen moral arguments for the prevention of violence. Estimating the indirect socio-economic costs would include lost earnings due to death and lost productivity of victims and perpetrators of violence including costs of incarceration. Further additional costs could also be included, such as legal (both criminal and civil); health (physical and mental); social services; housing and refuges; and finally the human cost in pain and suffering that is perhaps impossible to estimate in this way. This accounting has occurred already in developed nations and the developing nation of Vietnam where a recent study funded by UN Women estimated productivity losses and potential opportunity costs could be over three percent of gross domestic product. They also discovered that, individually, women experiencing violence earn 35 per cent less than those who do not. There is no current project to make a full account of these costs in Timor and which no doubt also shine a bright light on this issue. Internationally, it has been shown that there is a strong link between var-ious gender-related norms, including notions of masculinity in a society and gendered violence, and this has only recently been elaborated in TL.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen and the Politics of Gender in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste
Subtitle of host publicationBetween Heaven and Earth
EditorsSara Niner
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
Number of pages3
ISBN (Electronic)9781315657387
ISBN (Print)9781138999121
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameASAA Women in Asia Series
PublisherTaylor and Francis

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