By Gotamini Hathurusinghe –
The country is in a depressing state with a sad façade of brittle beauty with no meaning. Beautification of cities, building roads, culverts and bridges have hidden the fact that Sri Lankan women and children particularly girls who are vulnerable are treated abominably by its rulers and fellow citizens. Escalating rape of women and girl children by powerful people is a rising phenomenon in Sri Lanka
What is rape?
Rape is an act of violence and domination, anger and misuse of power. The motive for rape is the need to feel powerful and in control. Forcing someone to engage in sexual intercourse against her or his will is an act of violence and aggression. Sex is the weapon used to humiliate and control the victim. That is why rape is used as a weapon of war to show the domination of the victor against the defeated and is the worst form of triumphalism to besiege the world. It should be remembered that all women and girls are vulnerable to sexual assault
Human Security Status in Sri Lanka
Why is the country in a depressing state? Human security is at its worst in recent times. This is evinced by the following:
- Abject sexual violence against women in the North and East still continuing silently.
- Silence on Grease incidents which have terrorized women with no reparation.
- The gruesome murders of Kahawatte continue at an alarming rate with “seemingly” no success in investigation
- Christmas Day 2011 gang rape and murder in Tangalle by government goons.
- The rape of 6 year old in Thelijjawala, Matara by an Air Force deserter. This village is in close proximity to the home of the President’s mother and also the village from which the senior most bureaucrat of the country – Lalith Weeratunga originates.
- The rape of the 13 year old in Akuressa by its Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman – S Sunil and several others
- The horrendous sexual abuse of a 13 year old girl by 15 to 20 men in Tangalle where it also happens to be the President’s electorate and place of origin which is Hambantota. This girl had been raped by a relation a few works ago. Compounding the situation her 16 year old sister was also raped by this same relation, supposedly an Uncle.
- The abduction and molestation of a girl over a period of two months in Dehiowita of the Kegalle District, also where a supporter of a Pradeshiya Sabha member was involved.
- The 15 year old girl in Nawalapitiya raped by a powerful businessman and his friend, raped again by the Policeman who was supposed to “protect” and do the entry in the Police Station.
- The accusal of rape of an under aged girl by Duminda Silva
- Jullampitiye Amare given the highest protection by rulers has several charges of rape pending against him.
- The rape and sexual abuse of many children by a majority who are Buddhist priests and a few other clergy
When substantiating statistically the following figures become eye openers.
The Sri Lanka Police have recorded 1,636 cases of molestation of women in the last 11 months. Authorities believe the final total for this year would be high once records of the incidents that had taken place this month are added.
Of the 1126 on child sexual abuse cases in the last 11 months, 20% were under 10 years and 80% between 10 to 16 years of age.
Most cases are unreported because of stigma and fear of reprisal against the victim and family. Reprisal is possible, especially when there is impunity.
Fellow citizens behave badly when its leaders are beyond abomination, have unlimited impunity and the citizenry therefore cannot be corrected as those whom they uphold and can hold them responsible have behaved in the worst possible manner.
Myths and perceptions as part of the process of denial
A society in denial of the fact that there are grave violations of citizens security try to justify rape and all other forms of sexual abuse by providing the following reasons as excuses:
- It’s your fault if you are “raped,” citing dress, time and behavior that normalize rape and demean victims. “Good women/ girls” don’t get raped
- The usual “blaming victim” statements like “she shouldn’t have been dressed like that”; “she is my wife/girlfriend therefore I have the right”, “she’s too young to have been out by herself that late”; “she shouldn’t have taken a lift”; “she shouldn’t have walked home alone” suggest that the behavior of the victim allowed the assault to happen.
- Bad parenting and especially blaming the mother “that parents should be with their children all the time” Always citing the example of migrant workers and that their children are the most sexually abused. This has no evidence base.
- Saving the perpetrator who is usually a male by providing the excuse of alcohol or mental illness
- Only the good looking and sexy are raped.
- Most rapes occur at night time and not inside their own homes.
Myth busting and removing the veil of denial
Let us relate the following myths or preconceived notions to the incidents cited above. The statistics and profiles of the perpetrators show us that we need to emphasize that perpetrators very often are those who betray positions of trust in the family or community such as immediate and extended family members’ staff members in schools, clergy, and politicians at provincial and local levels, personnel attached to the forces than by a stranger. Figures and information provided by the Department of Police and NCPA are frightening, and each and every one of us should feel concerned.
What does society do when the supposed protecters become the perpetrators? How much can parental protection do? Take the example of the 10 year who was raped inside the school in Thelijjawila, Akuressa. Her mother was on the school premises, she should have been under the protection of the school authorities. But the authorities were having a drinks party inside the school! An outsider and a forces deserter at that, was allowed into the school for the drinks party and the girl raped in broad daylight.
In none of the cases above were the victims dressed indecently, nor were they at the wrong place at the wrong time. A clear imbalance of power relations is illustrated by the fact that all of the offenders were people of relative power in relation to the victims and their families.
The irony is that in Sri Lanka this is happening so brazenly and is an indicator of militarization all over the country
A state and its rulers become unconscionable when its meter of sensitivity is broken. Sri Lanka today is catapulting towards violent crime against the most vulnerable, in the same manner that a vehicle hurtles across the road with its speedometer broken, no idea of the speed it is travelling, killing all those who get in its way.
Impunity takes several forms such as protection of perpetrators – the case of Jullampitiye Amare and Sampath Vidanapathirana who orchestrated the Christmas day rape and murder, political interference in civil security and judicial procedures – Duminda Silva, the transfer of aall the police officers who acted correctly in Nawalapitiya, two faced statements by the rulers – the President statement that the situation is unacceptable while providing protection to perpetrators of different types of crime, lack of acceptance of rape and sexual abuse as war crimes, desensitization to crime – tamasha type activities going on as cover ups without substantive actions being taken, denial and cover up – the evidence of gang rape in the Christmas Day incident in Tangalle being suppressed and gagging the media on this issue.
So is this the miracle Sri Lankans want? The answer should be given by Sri Lankans in tangible forms