The Ministry of Justice and National Parliament have made a commitment to change the penal code to specifically outlaw incest.

Deputy Justice Minister Ivo Jorge Valente acknowledged that currently, incest was loosely defined, making convictions difficult.  

Incidences of incest can be penalized under different articles but Valente said the prohibitions needed to be strengthened to prevent alleged perpetrators arguing consent was freely given.  

He called for civil society groups to submit their views as to how such articles would be constructed. 

Member of Parliament Josefa Alvares Pereira Soares said Parliament gave its commitment to changing the laws some time ago when it passed laws to give protection to children.  

The Women’s Parliamentary Group of Timor-Leste president said firm action needed to be taken to address the issue of incest which if left unchecked, could have ruinous implications for the nation’s development. 

“(Incest) makes no sense; a father should be his family’s protector and should not have sex with his daughters,” she said.  

She said if the amendments to the code were not made, offenders would continue to escape consequences by arguing consent was given.  

Judicial Systems Monitoring Program (JSMP) executive director Luis de Oliveira Sampaio agreed the amendments were needed.  

“We don’t need to make new laws but simply create a new article that states consent is not a factor in the case of incest,” he said.