As of 2003, humanitarian concerns remained at the forefront of social development in East Timor. The rehabilitation of roads was providing access to rural areas that otherwise would have remained isolated. Electricity was being brought to rural areas, which would increase the potential for social benefits. Watersupply projects improved access to safe water, and freed women and children from the task of collecting water. Increased emphasis was being placed upon nutrition and heath programs. Market vendor loans were being granted equally to men and women, but certain group loans were disproportionately awarded to women. These loans were geared to support employment on farms and in households and small trading businesses.
The United National Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) initiated a program to increase the participation of women in decision-making for peace and gender justice. The program was geared to assist local communities to make concrete use of national instruments such as the constitution, parliament, courts, and certain legislation, from a rights-based and gender perspective. Another UNIFEM program, on gender, globalization, and marketing, was dedicated to upgrade the production of textiles in East Timor.
East Timorese women under Indonesian occupation were systematically raped, tortured, and imprisoned as sex slaves, and the process of recovery from that period is ongoing.
East Timor's constitution includes important human rights protections, including the right to a fair trial, criminal due process, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of religion. The constitution forbids the death penalty and life imprisonment, and includes the right to be free from torture, servitude, and cruel or degrading treatment. However, problems relating to the criminal justice system, including a proposed amnesty for past abuses, remained unresolved as of 2003. In addition, the status of minorities, including noncitizens, remains unclear in the constitution, as do social and economic rights and the right to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation.