20 October, 2021

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Rape & Child Abuse Tragedy

By Mano Ratwatte

Mano Ratwatte

Mano Ratwatte

It was with great trepidation that a lot of us émigré Sri Lankans read the story on the horrible abduction, rape and murder of an 18 year old in Jaffna. Rape is a heinous crime by itself. Rape and murder is carried out by vile men and it is not about romance, or love or even having sex for pleasure. It is a violent sadistic crime and it is about savage men exercising violent control over women.

In the US it is estimated that 300,000 women face sexual assault or rape attacks per year. Attacks against women and children (including against boys) has a chronic ugly pathology and it has nothing to do with how a person dresses. Date rape is another serious issue in nations where there are no restrictions on intimacy. That too has nothing to do with how a woman dresses but has to do with impaired judgment where a man is unable to accept that no means no.

If the claim that sexual assault, rape and molestation are all about appearances were true, then how is that the Catholic Church has for decades hidden the ugly truth about child abuse/pedophilia across the world? Was it the fault of the defenceless boys that they were molested by persons of the cloth in whom we all trust? From Germany, to Ireland to Australia to the US the Church and Vatican have systemically covered child abuse from the public by quietly transferring pedophile priests from one parish to another. They have no spent Billions of dollars to settle cases with the victims in the USA. They have ruined hundreds if not thousands of lives; were those victims wearing shorts that were too short or victims of predatory men? It is only since Pope Francis took over the Papacy that decades of abuse and predatory behavior is being discussed openly in the west. The crimes against kids by clergy in Ireland were covered with connivance of local police for ages.

Jaffna rapeHow is it that the demented religious Islamic extremists of Boko Haram in Nigeria are kidnapping young girls and raping them and selling them as wives in the name of religion? How is it that ISIL soldiers are raping Arab women who are not Sunnis but are conservatively dressed Arabs ? Almost all of those victims were dressed conservatively right? How about gang rapes in India? Indian women wear Salwar kameez; in rural India and Pakistan women wear the veil. It is not their dress or their clubbing at night that made them the targets for vicious assaults right?

What was the point of high-lighting all of the above in a story related to the violent gang rape and murder of an innocent in Sri Lanka? It is to highlight the tragedy of rape in civil society and child abuse which is far greater in occurrence/incidents but goes unreported and perpetrators unpunished because society doesn’t want to discuss it. It is a dirty secret.

I was moved by TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran’s column in the Daily News. He is right; I must say my initial reaction was also based on reading internet reports and I too wondered if the protests were politically motivated by Tamil Tigers.  Then I realized that after a suspect was allowed to get away, it was natural for people to be angry. They have been living in fear for too long and if the Police is indifferent to their pleas for help it is natural be they in the Deep South or North to be angry at the lack of empathy by law enforcement authorities.

It is not a Tamil, Sinhala, Malay, Burgher or Muslim issue. Rapists rape because they feel they can get away with impunity. Yet we cannot ignore those issues that have ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of women across the world either. Rape during war has happened in Vietnam when US troops raped with impunity, mass rape occurred during the East Pakistan war, in Russia during World War II and in Germany with Russian troops exacting revenge on German women, in the Congo, in Rwanda, in Bosnia etc.  It is terrible that men who are raised by mothers will themselves become savage animals during war. I was saddened and ashamed to read of the incidents and anecdotal evidence (by journalist DBS Jeyaraj) documented about sexual harassment at check points, rapes by members of armed forces that went unpunished during war in Sri Lanka too. It should not be a shock but it is sad; were we as the majority silent or afraid to even discuss the possibility of harassment of “enemy” women because they were not one of us.

But in civil societies where there is no more war, and people are trying to recover from the effects of war, it is shocking to read about the incidents of rape and the culture of impunity that seems to exist in many nations. What does that do to the psyche of people who have been ravaged by war and live in fear of the people who are meant to protect them? What is the excuse when there is no war?

It was upsetting to read about a journalist’s statement that “it was the first time courts were stoned” to try to bring a twist to the protests in Jaffna. Then there were government leaders trying to talk about the culture of impunity as if it started only during the previous Rajapaksa regime.

Not so.  I will like to remind people of one of the first instances of Government instigated thuggery against Judges. The stoning of Justice Soza’s, Justice Barnes Ratwatte’s and Just Percy Colin Thome’s houses happened in early 1983. There was a Demonstration in Colombo which was broken by police and where late Vivienne Goonewardene was ill treated during the break up. She filed a fundamental rights case and won. The three judges held that her fundamental rights was violated by a Sub Inspector (I think of the Colpetty police ). The courts went on to fine the officer Rs 10,000. It was actually a great victory in the face of an arrogant govt. However JR s intolerance knew no bounds. The next day or soon after he had a cabinet meeting where they decided to pay the fine of Rs 10,000 from govt. and not only that, the officer was promoted.  The next day people came in CTB buses parked in front of the judges houses and demonstrated in front of their house and Justice Percy Colin Thome’s house was stoned. These were believed to be gangs working in collusion with the government of the day. Later the Sun newspaper and Aththa papers did their own investigative work and discovered that the the whole thing had been carried out by a know UNP thug and his gang; of course nothing happened! If memory serves me right, a repeat offender rapist got a presidential pardon and was made a JP too. That there was a gradual deterioration of law and order was becoming apparent to everyone except those in that government.  It culminated with the heinous violent pogrom against innocent Tamils in July 1983. The government of the day tried its best to frame the JVP or “Naxalites” but at the end of the day everyone knew whose thugs and whose goons carried out those vile attacks.  Let us start with an honest discussion of that too. Why were people allowed to get away with that pogrom?  It is the seminal event that led to the relatively unknown and small LTTE to grow into this massive movement and to be seen as protectors of Tamils.

People who suffered wanted revenge and joined to fight back. Rest is history. Why wasn’t anyone punished? NWP provincials elections came later.

Incidents of abuse, rape, and harassment need to be stopped or at least controlled before they reach epidemic proportions. There has to be deterrents. India has taken steps to fast track rape cases and also reinstituted the death penalty. Sri Lanka re-introduced the death penalty to hang Mr.SWRD Bandaranaike’s assassin and it has been in the books since then. I see no reason to implement it as a deterrent.

If execution is anathema, given that Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation, please at least fast track these cases and give them life time sentences with no chance of pardons or parole. How about public flogging before jailing them?

Until leaders take off their blinders and treat this as a crime against civilization, and values, attitudes might not change. From child abuse, incest, alcohol and drug related wife beatings even at high society levels, rape are all a curse upon societies in the West and East. But at least in the West, there is more open discussion of these issues. Husbands have no right to rape their wives either.

Women are reluctant to come out when they are raped because they fear being ostracized by society where virginity before marriage is still a norm. Create a system where victims may be able to present evidence in camera. Fast track DNA matching facilitate the supply rape kits to all hospitals in the nation. Teach law enforcement officers to be sensitive and not look at a victim by their race but by the crime committed. Hire more female police officers. There are obviously times people make false accusations after having consensual sex, but most rape victims do not falsify reports. Hire more Tamils and Tamil speaking men and women to the police in the North.

Mr. Sumanthiran, I am sorry that this incident of rape was treated lightly by the police first, but I am also glad the alleged suspects were arrested fairly quickly. I hope President Mr. Sirisena will think seriously about reintroducing and implementing the death penalty on these savages and similar savages be they in the North or the South. The culture of impunity and political patronage of criminals must come to an end or at least reduced so law enforcement officials can carry out their duties without fear or favor.

Sri Lankan nation has seen too much violence for too long and clearly people are desensitized. There is woeful lack of awareness about crimes against children and women and also about mental health issues in Sri Lanka. It was only during President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s regime at least some efforts were made to make Sri Lankans aware of serious mental health issues and child protection issues.

Are drugs, alcohol and money playing a role in the North as they do in the south where people think they can get away?  Are people in traditional closed societies unable to cope with the rapid exposure to western culture and more liberal social and electronic media coverage of sexuality? Is what is happening in the North what the South underwent a few years ago too where there too there is an epidemic of rape? Was the north protected to an extent because of the iron fist of the LTTE and their strict codes of conduct? In the South, in Sri Lanka if not for pressure from the British, suspects who killed a tourist and raped his companion would not have been brought to justice fast.

Do people know that the State of Israel successfully prosecuted, and sentenced a President of Israel for Rape?  The 8th President of Israel Moshe Katsav was found guilty of sexual harassment and rape and sentenced to 7 years in jail. The longest serving Speaker(now retired) in the US House of Representatives, Republican Denis Hastert was indicted for lying to the FBI about hush money amounting to millions he paid to a victim he sexually molested when he was a High School Wrestling coach. The sister of a second victim has now come out and spoken about Hastert’s rape of her young brother when he was a student. Mind you, the Speaker is the 3rd most powerful person in the US political system and Hastert is still a very senior respected Republican and the school was about to erect a statue in his honor! How many such cases occur across the world where people we trust abuse that trust and rape and molest children? Rapists and criminals exist everywhere but not every nation allows them to get away no matter how high or powerful a person is.

Please create a system of courts to deal with child abuse, rape, violent assault and even spousal rape(which is illegal in many nations and make sure people are aware that a husband cannot rape a wife). Hoping for a day where Sri Lankans too can feel strongly that no one is above the law. Protecting children and women is a sacred obligation of every father and man born. Justice must be done, but it must also be seen to be done.

In closure here is a quote from Reverend Martin Neimoller, a Lutheran National Conservative pastor being used in Sri Lanka without proper citation. This original verse was written by Neimoller 2 years after World War II ended. He too was one of those silent majority of Germans who thought “Hitler was good” . It is a powerful verse and is appropriate for so many tragic situations that have befallen that beautiful nation.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Please stop the culture of impunity. President of Sri Lanka ought to be thanked for visiting Jaffna to speak to citizens after the rape incident and assuring people that they are all Sri Lankans. It is an arduous task to promote healing and trust, just like how Pope Francis is trying to clean his house it will be no easy task.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Serious crimes committed in Sri Lanka, from fraud in massive scales to rape, extortion & murder, are probably among the highest in the world. This not an unusual phenomenon in most third world countries, the reason being rampant corruption at all levels, particularly, at the top. This trend escalates as the Law Enforcement & the Judicial system deteriorates with the appointment of gutless, greedy people with no self respect, to places of authority, & the result is, not surprisingly, lawlessness & injustice. It’s not only to the poor & the vulnerable who have no voice but society as a whole is effected. The majority people of SL had enough of violence & corruption, & voted for a regime change, even though some still prefer to be blind to this fact, & the new President who has an obligation to fulfil this expectation. Ending this cancer begins with reforming the Police force, the guardians of the law. This herculean task can only succeed by appointing people with integrity (if such people still exist in SL)& being tough on those who break the law, especially, on those who are responsible for maintaining & upholding the law.

    • 1
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      Agreed.

  • 1
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    Mano Ratwatte

    RE:Rape & Child Abuse Tragedy

    Listen to what this Lady is saying.

    This was done by the Army, By LTTE, and by the Politicians and General Public is the South. Now this culture has spread to the North as well.

    Sri Lanka needs Technical and Legal help to combat the Rape problem.

    WFR press conference on CSR

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ugokb4GAY8

  • 2
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    Rape is “nothing about dress” says Mano Ratwatte.

    I agree. Why blame the victim?

    But, then again why put in harms way with wearing skimpy dresses?

    One of my former collegue in USA made a comment which I remember to this day. She said that one of her neighbours exercise in very revealing cloths as if she is asking “to be raped.”

    Many years later, I still remember this comment from an American citizen.

    • 0
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      USA nor the American citizen is less or more intelligent than the rest of us. We are going back to the question of dress is the cause of rape. Women are asking to be raped if they wear skimpy dresses.

      I think Gorakka should read this and many other articles in CT and comments that refutes the notion that dress is the main reason for rape in society. Nuns are raped and women in face cover are raped. Boys are raped.

  • 3
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    I hope the President Mr Sirisena’s “Yahpalanya” will take the rains to hand and
    Show The Ranil’s UNP, UPFA’s Mahinda and Rapist Stooges, Four Socialist thieves and Kudu mudalalis,
    How to govern a Regime and What is YAHAPALANAYA IS???????.

    We want Capital punishment to IMPLIMENT FOR RAPISTS,
    DRUG LORDS AND USERS,
    PUBLIC PROPERTY,MONEY LOOTERS,& THIEVES,
    PHYDOPELIACS.

    • 1
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      JULAMPITIYE AMARAYA

      “I hope the President Mr Sirisena’s “Yahpalanya” will take the rains to hand and Show The Ranil’s UNP, UPFA’s Mahinda and Rapist Stooges, Four Socialist thieves and Kudu mudalalis, How to govern a Regime and What is YAHAPALANAYA IS???????”

      They Need help from JVP for that! Looks like they do not have the balls for that kind of work.

    • 1
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      JULAMPITIYE AMARAYA

      Pakistan may be Taliban Devil Infested, but still they seem to punish culprits.

      In Lanka, The Land of Native (Aadivassi) Aethho, inhabited and infested with Paras, they allow Rapists and Murderers to go Free.

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/05/pakistan-confirms-only-two-convicted-for-attempted-of-malala

      Pakistan says only two convicted for attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai

      Contrary to earlier reports that all 10 accused were jailed, court papers reveal only two were given 25-year jail terms – including one who fired at the schoolgirl

      Pakistani officials confirmed on Friday that only two men have been convicted for the attempted killing of the education activist Malala Yousafzai, not 10 as lawyers from her home region of Swat had initially claimed.

      Although 10 men stood trial, only two were jailed for their role in shooting the Nobel laureate as she sat in a school bus in October 2012.

      In April this year, members of the legal community in Mingora, the capital of Swat, claimed all 10 had been sentenced to 25-year jail terms – a claim that garnered positive global headlines for a country that has long struggled against Islamist militancy.

      At the time, one army official in Swat, who spoke anonymously to the Guardian, contradicted the claims by several lawyers, insisting only two men had been convicted.

      Officials say the lawyers who spread the claim had not been inside the secretive, military-run court at the time of the hearing and had simply assumed all of the suspects had been jailed.

      Neither the army nor the government made any attempt to correct the public record at the time.

      The army has played a major role in the security of Swat ever since a military operation was launched in 2009 to roll back a Taliban takeover of the valley.

      On Friday, an army officer said the military believed there had been enough evidence to convict all of the men, but eight of them were acquitted because of what he called the longstanding weaknesses of Pakistan’s judicial system.

      He said witnesses were intimidated into not giving evidence and the court dropped many of the charges against them, including the plot to kill Yousafzai.

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      The officer strongly denied claims made by the Daily Mirror that any of the men had been released. He said they were still being held and would be brought back to court at a later date after a fresh case had been built against them.

      The 10 men arrested in September last year, in an operation involving multiple security agencies, were accused of being part of a group tasked by Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah with killing a series of high-profile people, including Yousafzai.

      Court papers further contradict information given in April about the men who were convicted, neither of whom were thought at the time to be the actual culprits of the attempted murder.

      But the judgment said the two convicted men had approached the minivan in which Yousafzai was sitting with her classmates, before one opened fire on her.

      The teenager survived the gunshot to her head after undergoing an emergency operation in Pakistan and later being moved to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham.

      In October last year, she became the youngest winner of a Nobel peace prize for her work campaigning for the right of children to education.

  • 0
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    Mano,
    Your article is how the Islamists thought in the Middle-Ages (indeed, some still think this way), i.e., e.g. that thievery is a crime, and therefore anyone caught in the act has to have his/her (mostly his) hand chopped off.

    It doesn’t take account of perpetrator’s age, situation, hunger quotient, accidental properties, lying of the accuser. It is truly “poverty of thought” to lump all of theft into kleptomaniacal association, and chop off the hand in one sadistic act.

    Crimes, have to be analyzed, graded, put into degrees, taken from humanistic angles, circumstantial and actual evidence looked into……….it is a very complex and investigative procedure. But as higher evolved beings, we have to take that intricate path.

    • 2
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      ramona therese fernando

      “Crimes, have to be analyzed, graded, put into degrees, taken from humanistic angles, circumstantial and actual evidence looked into…”

      Bravo

      Good to have a few humanists around.

      How far have you progressed in removing death penalty from the statute books of this island? This act could be the litmus test for genuine humanist.

      If you really believe in humanism removing this particular medieval penal code from this island is the least you could contribute.

      I will be right behind you.

      • 2
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        hmmm…..are you scoffing or what? But in case you are being nice, thank you. How do I contribute? Have you a petition that I can sign?

        Death penalty should be given only to cases like Hannibal Lecter. And the way to do it is to point a gun to the head and shoot.

    • 1
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      Thank you. I should’ve been better at stressing if it’s for heinous savage rape /murders and not for other crimes. I was for the longest time against the death penalty because of the “what if” and knowing so many have been executed wrongfully. If there’s DNA that’s not planted and rape murders were pre planned violent attacks? Just throwing out some ideas. Sorry if it was not articulated. Your thoughtful comments are really valuable and I think are a great way to steer the debate. Perhaps life in prison? I did overlook how black people were falsely accused and sentenced and even executed in the USA

      • 0
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        Of course rape is a far more heinous crime than theft. However, we hope that rape too, will go through the same investigative procedures when prosecuted in the courts of law.

    • 1
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      All forms of punishments cost money. Jailing cost money and we complain about taxes.

      Here is a dilemma many do not consider.

  • 1
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    Mano Ratwatte,
    You say, “Date rape is another serious issue in nations where there are no restrictions on intimacy. That too has nothing to do with how a woman dresses but has to do with impaired judgment where a man is unable to accept that no means no.”

    And yet these non-restriction on intimacy issues are rabidly encouraged in the West. The West is no model for other cultures to follow. However, the law in the West does give the leeway for conditions like “beyond reasonable doubt,” and insanity pleas (even temporary) to have their day. Dress as a factor for rape can never be used directly, but it can be used as an issue for a jury to ponder upon.

    Pedophilia is crime different from date rape and general rape of women/men. It is a sickness in society and is very often inadvertently encouraged by the culture and rules of certain institutions. It has to be prosecuted differently from e.g. date rape. But it still needs to be look at very carefully because there have been few incidences where motives of revenge are used, and also a few incidents where children’s minds have be influenced to have false recollections.

    For Boko Haram and ISIL, there are political crimes, encouraged, in retaliation to Western “Freedoms-Acts.” Between the West and the Islamic states, there seems to be, even in this enlightened and modern age, a rivalry and fighting of ideologies. Every time the West goes into their own investigative experimentations with things like LGBT issues (one wonders if it is done to stir up the Islamist radicals), the Islamists become more fanatical with their religion and punish their women (not there is anything wrong with LGBT’s, but at times, there seems to be a deliberate provocation with these issues).

    You say, “It is terrible that men who are raised by mothers will themselves become savage animals during war.” This is the terrible reality of war. Greater warnings and prosecution can help, but it is still a far different issue to the average rape during peace-time. US military e.g. puts great care and effort into training their soldiers against the rape factor. It happens from time to time, and prosecution of offenders and justice for victims is swift. Sri Lanka could learn from the US in this.

    You say, “Rapists rape because they feel they can get away with impunity.” And this is true for a certain percentage of cases. We can never know the exact percentage (and they may vary from country to country), but I would say that it is generally around 1-2% of rapists. The reason being, that even if they get away with impunity, it is still a rough process for them, and those cases only constitute who are of a certain influential level and who can use money and privilege to get away with much. It will be detrimental to the justice system and society in general to bring in harsh sentences to deal with a small number of such rape intentions.

    India is a disgrace in terms of integration of their systems, and Indian cultural habits (e.g. dowry system where women therefore deliberately abort their female babies), is too different from the cultural habits of Sri Lankans, and any other place on earth. That country, that should place poverty issues as its highest priority (that includes eradication of caste-system), is instead building up their womanhood to achieve the glories of the Western liberated woman, and creating severe mental disturbance in the minds of their men.

    All in all, it is the duty of the justice system, especially in Sri Lanka, to develop and implement a better set of rules and procedures to prosecute rape. However, many of our brainy lawyers are not working in the gamas and wattas of Sri Lanka, but are far, far away exercising their brain skills e.g. in the courts of the British Crown. Or they are sitting up with the political hierarchy of Sri Lanka and playing Devil’s Advocate.

    In light of this typical embarrassing Lankan anomaly, I guess the swifter justice and harsher sentences that you speak of, might be the only preventative measure against rape in Sri Lanka. (not that justice will be served, but people will feel like something is happening).

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