This article examines attitudes and perceptions of young men toward gender relations and gender-based violence in post-conflict Timor-Leste. A high level of domestic violence is reported and a law against domestic violence has been passed in recent years. In 2013, a research team surveyed almost 500 young men using the Gender-Equitable Men (GEM) Scale in both rural and urban contexts. It was found that young men become less gender equitable as they get older, and the environment they grow up in influences their gender attitudes. Existing contradictions and tensions between national government policy and local customary practices are well-known, and these are reflected in young men’s acceptance of general principles of gender equality, which is unmatched by their willingness to accept more equitable gender relations in their own lives. Of concern was the level of young men’s acceptance of sexual harassment and forced sex. Mechanisms are required to influence young men’s attitudes to gender equality and intimate partner relations in school programs and other arenas as a priority.

Author Biography

Ann Wigglesworth is a Research Associate at Monash Asia Institute, Monash University, under taking social development research focusing on gendered and generational perspectives of development. With 25 years of operational international development experience she embarked on a PhD exploring issues of social change and young people’s activism in the new nation of Timor-Leste. Dr Wigglesworth’s research and consultancy assignments have focused on gender analysis, capacity development and social development research and publication.

Sara Niner is an interdisciplinary researcher and lecturer with the School of Social Sciences, Monash University. She is an expert in the field of gender and development with a long-term interest in those issues in the post-conflict environment of Timor-Leste and is widely published in this field. She authored Xanana: Leader of the Struggle for Independent Timor-Leste (2009), republished in Portuguese in 2011. Dr. Niner has also reported on regional gender issues for international development agencies.

Associate Professor Dharmalingam Arunachalam is the Director of Population and Urban Research within the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. He is a demographer whose work focusses family demography, women’s autonomy, reproductive health and child health, as well as social cohesion and migration.

Abel Boavida dos Santos has been the Director of the Community Development Department at the National University of Timor-Leste since 2008 and a lecturer since 2002. He has a master’s degree in Development Studies from Satya Wacana Christian University, Salatiga, Indonesia. Mr. dos Santos has undertaken various consultancy and research projects in collaboration with international academics and development practitioners in the areas of community development, gender, democracy and local governance.

Mateus Tilman is a lecturer in the Faculty of Social and Political Science at the National University of Timor-Leste. He is a specialist in community development and a founding member of a Timorese organization Kdadalak Sulimutuk Institute (KSI) which undertakes research and action projects to promote conflict prevention and transformation with traditional leaders, government officials and rural communities.