Colombo Telegraph

Tuk Tuk Drivers’ Sexual Harassment Gives Women & Tourism A Rising Headache

Several women who have recently fallen victim to sexual abuse especially at the hands of sexually frustrated male tuk tuk drivers, have taken to social media to vent their frustrations, as the epidemic continues to grow uncontrollably on the streets of Sri Lanka.

Both foreigners and local women have fearlessly stepped forward to share their sickening experiences some with startling video evidence.

A Policeman when contacted by Colombo Telegraph and who spoke on condition of anonymity said “yes, I do agree that this epidemic is on the rise. Unfortunately the Police force does not have enough manpower to tackle this type of crime. The number of registered three wheelers on the roads of Sri Lanka is now well over a million vehicles.”

This rampant curse that women in Sri Lanka are forced to endure needs to be curbed immediately, as it is fast affecting even the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is fast getting widespread criticism globally firstly for the harassment women continuously face on the streets of Sri Lanka and moreover where the local government law enforcing officers go on to deal with such complaints in a lackadaisical manner.

A land like no other, the miracle of Asia or whatever fancy name Sri Lanka wishes to call itself, it will certainly have to curb this menace soon before the tourism sector is severely affected.

Meanwhile two ladies who were subject to harassment by three wheel drivers recently had the courage to film the two perverts in action and in doing so created huge public awareness and a plethora of social media responses in Sri Lanka.

One woman wrote that she was made to feel extremely embarrassed when the three wheel driver was masturbating during the journey she took on her way to drop off her three year old in school.

In the second instance the lady whilst travelling in her own private vehicle was taunted by a three wheeler driver who continued to make gestures driving alongside her vehicle. The tuk tuk driver whilst pointing to his genitals with one hand was using his other hand to maneuver his tuk tuk through the winding traffic.

Writing to a group on Facebook known as EPFS Community Vraie Cally said “I had to take my daughter to nursery today and hailed a Trishaw on the street. It didn’t take me long to realize this man kept touching his penis (over his clothes). At first I wasn’t sure. But once he started doing it with more frequency, I realized that he was masturbating.

I assertively asked him which stand he was from. He said ‘Saranankara’.

I was thinking of all the things I could do, but also couldn’t work out how to do any of those things with three year old with me.

So I took out my phone and held it high enough for him to realize we were talking pictures. The second I did this he stopped. But we were only a few seconds away from the nursery. When I got off the Trishaw I could clearly see he had an erection.

I paid him Rs130 for the hire and got off at the nursery. I didn’t want to fight with him outside the school. I stayed there for a few minutes before taking another to come back home.

Those 10 minutes in a Trishaw felt like an eternity.

I came home and realized that I couldn’t let him to get away with what he did. I made a complaint at the Women’s desk at the Dehiwala police station and was thankful for how empathetic they were given how upset I was. I cried for a good 2 minutes before I could even speak to the officer.

For all the strength I have, it’s sometimes very hard to work out what to do in response to situations like this. Especially with traveling with a young child.

I am glad that I did take pictures of the vehicle number plate. This will help locate him.

I am not sharing this sympathy. I’m okay now.

But I was reminded today of how terrifying it is to be a woman in Sri Lanka. How vulnerable we are in situations like this.

And why we need to bring people like this to justice. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the same.

Writing on another Facebook group known as ‘Voice of Change’ a lady named Anoka Abeyrathne wrote, “This happened in broad daylight on Galle Road, Bambalaptiya. While I was waiting for the lights to change, this trishaw driver tooted at me. When I didn’t look, the tooting became even more incessant. Once the lights changed, he drove alongside me and made a gesture asking for my phone number while pointing at his genitals. I ignored and tried to drive away, but he kept following me. I began videoing him and then he tried to crash into me, run me off the road and made crude explicit gestures. Fearing for my safety, I drove towards the Bambalapitiya Police Station. He probably realized that and turned off into a side road and disappeared.

I had just finished a meeting with another meeting planned. This whole experience left me speechless. I called my friends who showed up and helped me sort it out.

This is not ok. Sri Lanka really needs to streamline and improve law enforcement and the legal system. The fact that this guy did not care that it was not broad daylight on Galle Road, nor that I was videoing him, shows his regard for both women and law.”

Meanwhile in Mirissa the tourist city down on the southern coastline is soon becoming notorious for the abuse of foreign women at the hands of local tuk tuk drivers.

Besides fleecing tourists through exorbitant trip fares female tourists have been subjected to severe sexual abuse at the hands of them.

Recently on the 8th of March 2019 a tourists named Karen Hsin was abused when her vaginal area was groped when entering a way side eatery. This is despite being in the presence of a male tourist she was accompanying.

Karen Hsin went on to post on Facebook “My assaulter hid inside the passenger seat of a tuk tuk but my friend went inside the tuk tuk to prevent him from driving away. We had to cause a scene in order to get the attention of two traffic officers. They stopped by to see what all the commotion was about, and even then, the traffic officers didn’t voluntarily call the actual police for me.. This was my first experience with the sexist and dysfunctional Sri Lankan justice system. The man who assaulted me might never be indicted because I’m only in the country until middle of March. But I did everything in my power to report him. I chose not to be silent. I’m sharing this story because I need to let those men know I’m not afraid of them. I also want to bring light to the unfair, dysfunctional and sexist Sri Lankan police officers I dealt with; and hopefully to get some closure myself.”

Earlier Sri Lanka as a country drew huge criticism when On Christmas Day 2011, a Russian female named Victoria Alexandrovna was gang raped whilst her boyfriend Khuram Shaikh Zaman a Briton was murdered.

In another incident in October 1999, an Indian woman named Rita Manoharan was also gang raped and murdered along the beach at Crows Island, a suburb of Colombo.

Meanwhile the Cultural Intelligence Center USA who spent over a decade studying behavioural patterns of over 100,000 people globally identified that people segregated into ten global clusters where behaviors’ of people living in those respective regions are driven by values inculcated during their formative years.

The cluster that Sri Lanka falls within is identified as a region where a hierarchical system plays a major role in the day to day lives of its people.

An expert on this subject when contacted by Colombo Telegraph said “this is why women get harassed, taunted, bullied and abused in these regions more so than other global clusters. It has become the norm. The system needs to change and that is why it is important that Law and Order should play a major part to apprehend perpetrators, name and shame them in public and jail them if necessary. However this is a huge problem that needs to be driven into a system that would take perhaps years to materialize. Sri Lanka badly needs a culture change where gender equality plays a huge role and where women need to be revered for the role they play as a mother, wife, sister, friend and a co-worker.” (By Janaka Ranaweera)

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