East Timor is now faced to a strong social and political change, which implies, on gender issues, the building of a new morality about domestic physical aggression. Based on the local translation of gender equality principles ? seen as universal values ? a set of actions against domestic violence is questioning local practices and attitudes regarding representations of body, gender and sexuality, such as polygamy, the obligations to childbirth and the responsibilities on contraception. Based on one year fieldwork in the country, this paper discusses the way the knowledge of experts on the field of gender and development reflects upon political projects which contribute to the shaping of a specific way of experiencing the body, inscribing physical punishment into a new universe of meanings, many of them considerably different from those in force at the countryside. Conflicts and syntheses emerged from this process show the importance of being aware of the relationship of the building of local identities faced to broader political and symbolic disputes as well as the limits of the binding of local practices and values thought as universal ones.
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