By BBC South Asia –
A 13-year-old girl in Sri Lanka has identified four men including a local government politician who she says were involved in gang-raping her in the south of the country last month.
It is one of a series of alleged rapes, especially of children.
Such cases have recently been reported in alarming numbers – police say 700 minors have been victims since January.
No-one has been tried, but suspects in several cases are politicians from Sri Lanka’s governing UPFA coalition.
To date, 22 suspects have been remanded in the case of the 13-year-old girl.
Newspaper reports say they include the urban councillor from the town of Tengalle, a millionaire businessman and owners or managers of several hotels.
Separately, the UPFA head of the local council in the southern town of Akuressa has been remanded for alleged abuse of a girl, 14, at a guesthouse he owns.
The Women and Media Collective (WMC) , a campaign group, has denounced the alleged crimes, saying Sri Lanka is a society where “perpetrators of heinous crimes against women and children can live with little fear of the law”.
Other recent cases include:
- A soldier accused of raping a six-year-old girl
- A worker in Colombo’s main conference centre arrested over the rape of a 15-year-old, yet swiftly bailed
- The rape and murder of a six-year-old by a male relative and two friends
- The abduction and rape of a 13-year-old girl by the son of a wealthy businessman
Senior Buddhist monk Thibbotuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera told a visiting delegation of governing party MPs that he was “not satisfied with the current situation in the country” and that “deterrent punishment should be given to people found guilty of child abuse”.
Research by BBC Sinhala reveals that over the past decade, more than 100 Buddhist monks have been charged for sexual and physical assaults on minors. Very few have been convicted. About 20 Christian priests have also been investigated.
Opposition politician Sarath Fonseka said rape and molestation were now “the favourite pastime of mid-level politicians”.
Child Development and Women’s Affairs Minister Tissa Karaliyadda says he has drawn up a draft letter tightening up laws against child abuse, including possible death sentences.