20 May, 2022


We Will Teach You A Lesson: Sexual Violence Against Tamils By Sri Lankan Security Forces

By Charles Sarvan

Prof. Charles Sarvan

Prof. Charles Sarvan

‘We Will Teach You a Lesson: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces’, Human Rights Watch publication, 2013. Approximately 130 pages. ISBN: 1-56432-993-3.

This is a difficult document to read. Shakespeare’s Macbeth speaking figuratively said that he had eaten too much of horrors. So it is with reading one testimony, “eating” one horror, after another. An emotional revulsion sets in; a wish to set a mental distance, if not escape. What the ‘Report’ records is morally sick, and the sickening is to be avoided with repugnance, if not with aesthetic distaste. For example, when one reads that a sharp needle was inserted in the penis of men. “In one case, this was used to insert small metal balls into their urethra […] the metal balls were later surgically removed by doctors abroad” (page 4). Yogalingam Vijitha, a 27-year-old Tamil woman from Jaffna was tortured and raped with a plantain-tree flower. These “flowers are hard and cone-shaped” (page 19). On the 17th of May 1997, police officers raped Murugesupillai Koneswany of Batticoloa in her home and then detonated a grenade in her genitals, both to kill her and to hide evidence of gang-rape (ibid). “Subramaniam Kannan, a man from Vavuniya […] had barbed wire inserted into his rectum” (p. 21).

I apologise for the crude and extremely distressing detail but their inclusion is essential to the case that Human Rights Watch seeks to present to the world’s awareness and conscience, concern and action. An understandable impulse is to stop reading, close the ‘Report’ and put it both out of sight – and mind. But what then of the victims, the human beings who experienced and must for ever live with this trauma? They can never put the experience aside, as we can lay aside the ‘report’. Those who have been tortured, or have undergone a similar extreme experience, never recover. They never regain their former self; they remain for ever tortured or raped. What was a single happening is, in fact, life-long damage.

‘We Will Teach You a Lesson: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces’,                                                                                                                       Human Rights Watch publication, 2013. Approximately 130 pages. ISBN: 1-56432-993-3.

‘We Will Teach You a Lesson: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces’, Human Rights Watch publication, 2013. Approximately 130 pages. ISBN: 1-56432-993-3.

Twenty-three old Jyoti Singh Pandey was gang-raped in a Delhi-bus on 16 December 2012, and subsequently died of her injuries. The case caused justified outrage nationally and internationally because, among other reasons, Ms Pandey became an individual to us with a life of her own, parents and home. She was a living and real human being, and we could relate to her tragedy. But the cases documented in this ‘Report’ are faceless and nameless as a precaution against reprisal violence wreaked on her or his family in Sri Lanka.. The ‘Report’ aims to be factual and objective, and so the facts are deliberately recorded dispassionately: the human cost is what the reader must perceive; the moral indignation, sympathy and protest are what s/he must add. The phrase, ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ is clinical, concealing rather than conveying lived experience.

In the introduction we are told the ‘Report’ is the result of in-depth interviews with Tamil detainees now abroad, conducted over a 12-month period in places as diverse as Australia, the UK, Germany, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. Its main focus is on the period 2006-2012. Seventy-five cases of rape were investigated, 31 of men, 41 of women and 3 of boys (page 2). In 67 of the cases, independent medical evidence was obtained with the consent of the victims.

Sexual violence usually begins with sexual humiliation: forced nakedness, verbal threats and mockery; with the deprivation of privacy for women when they use the toilet or have a bath. The intention is to degrade and humiliate: We will teach you a lesson. (The word “teach” implies transgression and punishment: the victims “deserve” the treatment meted out. Seeing themselves as instruments of retributive racial justice, crude and appallingly sadistic torturers and rapists can take pride in their action. The victims, not they, are to blame.) Sexual abuse was “frequently carried out by more than one person, often with multiple onlookers, including women members of the security forces” (page 33). Under torture and rape, even the innocent confessed and went so far as to identify other supporters of the Tamil Tigers – even though they didn’t know them at all (ibid)! But confession did not stop rape and torture. In some cases, family members paid money and the victim was allowed to “escape” (sic).

The police force has been militarized and the armed forces exercise police powers. Both act with complete impunity over a population that is defenceless and fears further harassment if complaints are lodged. It would be like sheep complaining to foxes and wolves about the behaviour of foxes and wolves. There is “no category of Tamil who, once taken into custody, is immune from rape and other sexual violence” (p. 36) – unless, one would add, s/he were wealthy or had influential Sinhalese contacts. The so-called “security forces” make Tamils feel most insecure. The use of sexual violence is not “just a local occurrence or the action of rogue security personnel”, but despite the many cases reported, not one senior officer has been prosecuted for crimes of this nature. On the other hand, given the conservative nature of Tamil society, there is a reluctance to talk about sexual molestation and rape. “The issue of male rape and sexual violence against men has neither been raised nor addressed.” It is suppressed both by victims and perpetrators, and remains a taboo subject (page 45).

Finally, given government restrictions and the impossibility of carrying out independent investigation, the cases recorded here are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg: the majority still within the confines of ‘the Paradise Isle’ suffer in silence. One shudders to think of the fate of the many still in custody. They are unknown; what is done to them, unseen; their cries unheeded by those present, unheard by others. The few whose experience is recorded in the ‘Report’ are both safely abroad and willing to re-live the horror by giving testimony. Rape “in formal and informal detention centres continues (page 29. Emphasis added) and the “Sri Lankan government’s response to allegations of sexual violence by the security forces has been crude and disdainful” (page 43).

Human Rights Watch makes severe criticisms of the Tamil Tigers, for example: “During the first four months of 2009, more than 300,000 civilians were trapped in areas of fighting, effectively used as ‘human shields’ by the LTTE, with limited access to food, water, and medical care. The LTTE forcibly conscripted civilians and prevented others from fleeing LTTE-controlled areas by firing at them, killing many” (p. 13) Yet I anticipate that the ‘Report’ will lead some to question the impartiality of Human Rights Watch, and to dismiss their findings as the work of misguided Westerners sympathetic to the Tigers. As Orwell wrote in his essay, ‘Writers and Leviathan’, our reaction to texts is conditioned by non-textual loyalties.

Besides, I think many Sinhalese are unaware of the crude and cruel acts that were perpetrated, and are being perpetrated. Hopefully, the ‘Report’ will create awareness, and awareness to action; to declaring: “Not in our name!”

“After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” (T S Eliot, ‘Gerontion’)

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Latest comments

  • 9

    Liar, Liar! Ltte Liar!

  • 25

    It is not true that Sinhalese are not aware of those cruelty of Sinhala forces. Even Sinhalese had their own experience of cruelty. Sinhalese fundamentalist extremists never allowed to think about the rights and wrongs of their forces. People were kept in the dark using patriotric drama and hatred against Tamils and those who raised the issues were made disappeared or assasinated.

  • 27

    The perpetrators of these vile crimes against vulnerable tamils were nothing but savages devoid of any humanity. It is Laughable that these same savages called the final war against the LTTE as a humanitarian operation. I hope their God has made them all go mad thinking about what they did to their victims.

  • 14

    Lets await the comments of sinhales learned like DJ on this.

    • 9


      “Lets await the comments of sinhales learned like DJ on this.”

      Please allow me to help him with words and phrases already coined and in use which he can liberally sprinkle in his next typing if he wants to justify what had happened to Tamil women, girls and children.

      Rational Choice Theory

      Sexual Division of Labour

      Transcendental Argument

      Victimless Crime

      Internal Colonisation of the Life World

      Methaphysical Speculative Knowledge

  • 5

    This is a report by HRW covering a period of 6 years. They interview 75 alleged rape victims in the hands of the Ceylon Army.

    All are seeking political asylum in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. All 75 claimed they had links to LTTE and they were “gang raped” as a result.

    The story of one of the alleged rape victims – Nandani sheds light into how the Human Rights industry works these days. Nandani was setup as a rape victim in a Torture Clinic. The complete story here.



  • 9

    I am in my mid ’70s and I can recall, in the period prior to 1957 only a very few cases of ‘violence’. Rape was hardly known but the Satahsivam case, Race Course robbery and killing, Alfred De Zoysa case made headline news. When did these violence start and when did these things become the norm rather than the exception? It was in 1953 with the famous LSSP inspired “hartal”, followed by the race riots in 1956 as a result of the infamous ‘Sinhala Only Act’. Then in 1971 we had the first JVP uprising, and the killing of Alfred Durraiappa in 1975 that set the ball really rolling. Simultaneously, we had the second JVP uprising in 1983/4 and the “war” ended in 2009. But do we have peace and TRANQUILITY? our people, the Tamils, Sinhalese, Malays, Burgers, Muslims all lived like brothers till then. Now, we have all kinds of problems, problems-within-problems, and there appears to be no end to the troubles. During this time of Lent, let us look at what The Lord Jesus who died for us on the Cross of Calvary and what the Bible says, that peace will come ONLY when the Prince Of Peace comes and establish His rule. Some may laugh and put the “thumb” down, but we who lived in this calm and lovely island will know that there was never a time like this.

  • 7

    Inserting barbed wire in the rectum was a torture method that was carried out by the LTTE as far back as the late 1980’s. This and other savage acts committed by the LTTE(including massacres in villages) were conveniently recorded and used as propaganda to fool the white man.
    Both sides committed cruel acts. But the fingers are only pointing at the GoSL now. The Tamil Diaspora cheerleaders who supported this cruelty are now very conveniently espousing human rights. This war has criminals on both sides. Why try to prosecute only one side?

  • 15

    Thank you for exposing the true nature of the Sinhalese. To date NOT ONE of my sinhalese friends has condemned these actions.

    • 0

      Crazy Pusa

      Simple question “Why do you condemn any actions that Sinhalese were never committed?”

      These are all fabricated stories by LTTE funding elements. We all know how LTTE ran the show for 30 odd years like noble pious devotees.

  • 8

    The fact is that no one wants to believe it or accept it. Denial is the way things work here in Lanka. They feel ashamed to accept it. They all know it’s shameful and barbaric thing but some of them think that those affected and tortured people deserve this kind of punishment ! People have become so cruel in this holy nation of proudly called Sinhala-Buddhists. Unbelievable but true.
    This sadly brings shame to the nation and Buddhism.

  • 7

    I need to be objective. The accusations made on the army in its final stages is not the only violations. The atrocious behaviour of the LTTE was indignant. Massacre of there own for not joining the war shooting and keeping civilians as human shields is barbaric. THERE WERE MORE KILLINGS AND torture conducted by the Murdering LTTE that need to be investigated.
    what ever nationalities the evil on both sides resort to torture.
    This is human. Both sides are equally responsible.
    What is required is to take a chapter from Mandelas version of reconcilation Not to be at each others throats.

  • 12

    Sinhala politicians just don’t know how to rule a nation. They are dismantling every good thing and only interested in subjugating and torturing Tamils and other minorities. They just love and get a racist kick out of it !

    The country need an impartial ruling body, not Sinhalese or Tamils but British.
    They only know how to rule without any bias and with rule of law.
    Let’s call them back, if the country has to survive and to save it from a total destruction.

    • 0

      Billa (or Bulla)

      Wake up man!!!!!!!!!! We all know how British ruled this country for 200 odd years. 30 odd year old communal war is a result of their divide and rule principle.

      Did you know Queen’s men who ruled Sri Lanka even taxed our peoples private parts?

      People like you with no backbones is also direct result of the calamity we has over 30 odd years. How many moderate Tamils condemned the LTTE butcher administration than supporting and funding it?

      Go and learn from people like Neelan Thiruchelvam and the Hon. Minister Kadirgrammar who was brutally killed by your LTTE monkeys.

  • 6

    I believe that there are about half a million members of the various branches of the security forces. There are bound to be many members with mental problems and/or who don’t belong to the main stream sexually. Unfortunately it is impossible to identify and control all of them. Other countries also have similar problems even peace time.

  • 3

    This is not true. There are some insident it happend not only Tamils but Sinhalese too. Most of Tamils live south of Sri Lanka. They live colombo too. Most of Tamils in colombo they had good eduction good jobs. And other city too. The problem in Sri Lanka is not Tamils or Sinhalese. The problem is poverty. The people who had mony they had very thing. If there is no money they had nothing. It is common to every people.

  • 5

    One of the sensitive topics today is humiliation. All human are originally animals, true. Society builds human values by following various disciplines.The society and administration has a responsibility to upgrade social values. Instead the administration become corrupt, create slums and generate degraded social existence, obviously the dwellers will forget to respect others. What do they lose for breaking the law? Rape is normal to them. These are suicide cadres.

    Rape should carry a penalty where a dysfunction is intentionally made on the body of the rapists whether individual or soldiers, so that he will not pose a threat to others, or get aroused sexually thereafter. Another addition should be that any indication of inclination to sexual disorders should be addressed at very early stage and preventive mechanisms put in place. All kinds of harassing should be addressed together.If immediate steps are not taken, there’s going to be more Jyothis everywhere.

    Sexual behavior also should be properly interpreted so that no one take advantage of any situations.

    Murder should carry RI.

  • 11

    Dear Prof. Sarvan
    Sexual torture of Tamil captives, sexual attacks, abuses and violence against Tamil women by Sinhala security forces have been a familiar feature of post-Appe Anduva Sri Lanka. Please refer to AMNESTY INT’L REPORT- SRI LANKA – RAPE IN CUSTODY, JANUARY 2002″ for further illustrations of the exemplary conduct of our Sinhala heroes. The poor victims included POOMANI SARAVANAI, a 70-year-old grandmother in Jaffna who was raped in front of her son, by two soldiers. All these men in uniform escaped scot-free. Why? because of their Sinhala supremacy and the victims were Tamil vassals- sex slaves to satisfy Sinhala libido and carnal desire. Post-May 2009, these carnivorous predators secured a hunting ground in the North East and have been on the prowl. There is a Sanskrit maxim; YATHA RAJAH, THATHA PRAJA”. The mainstream media refuse to report these abuses for two reasons (1) The victims are Tamils and it won’t hurt the media moguls (2) media moguls are “patriots” and would not betray their compatriots in uniform – the war heroes.

  • 6

    shaped” (page 19). On the 17th of May 1997, police officers raped Murugesupillai Koneswany of Batticoloa in her home and then detonated a grenade in her genitals, both to kill her and to hide evidence of gang-rape (ibid). “Subramaniam Kannan, a man from Vavuniya […] had barbed wire inserted into his rectum” (p. 21).

    if any one wants to support the Arm forcers you are Babarians too

    • 0

      So if anyone supports to the LTTE they are barbarians too. what is your logic

      • 3


        “So if anyone supports to the LTTE they are barbarians too.”

        There is no logic. Think in terms of ethics or go back to what Buddha taught.

        If any organised group or state use force to harm innocent people they are definitely terrorists. It includes LTTE, JVP and most definitely the state (since 5th April 1971)

        What is your problem?

  • 4

    Still people are taken to notorious 4 th floor. I do not think activity at the 4th floor has reduced now. Recently I read there is a 2nd floor also. There were torture chambers everywhere in the north and east. each and every member of SL force is a torturer. Have to be punish en mass. will get punished by post traumatic syndrome.
    The main duty of the forces during the last 6 yrs was to erase the evidence, That itself a war crime.

  • 5

    As you all may recall, the LTTE were (and are) capable of faking many things


  • 6

    It is time that Tamils cease seeking sympathy of others to promote their exaggerated difficulties. I can recall one incident that made me cringe, in mid 1980 s I was returning to England with my family after a brief holiday in SL. There was a Tamil gentleman, probably in his late fifties, talking to other passengers seated in a 4 seat row behind us. He was expressing stories of utter exaggeration to gain sympathy of these passengers, that was the time that there was an influx of Tamils seeking asylum in UK, stories this gentleman was telling was so much lacking in facts. I was forced not to intervene by my wife. Tamils need to stop using fabricated theories of rape to gain international recognition, rape torture was a tool that was used by Velupoolai Prabhakaran in a massive scale, have not read any articles written by pseudo Tamil scholars of rape and torture by VP. The torture and killing of excess of 650 policemen in custody of VP is never mentioned. Are only Tamils that has feelings against rape and torture. Please be realistic the world is no longer sympathetic to Tamil fraudulent claims, time that Tamils lived on false sympathy is over, be accountable and negotiate in a realistic manner to achieve to live in harmony.

    • 3

      MR Tilak do Silva,

      Don’t listen to these “fake” stories of tamils but just read about the atrocities that have been committed by the policemen in police stations around the country. Torture and murder are standard practice of Sri Lankan police and the military. Poor sinhalelse are also suffering at the hands of the police and the military. The Sri Lankan military is notorious for rape, torture and murder. Were the Haitian children lying when they accused the Sri Lankan “humanitarian” peacekeeping force of rape, Mr de Silva? We’re these paedophile punished Mr de Silva? Tamils are liars in your eyes but what about the poor sinhalelse and the Haitian children who were abused or raped or rtured or murdered?

    • 1

      Since you have been living in UK, you will understand that you can’t hide crimes. In fact, you want to live in west because of their laws and at least to some degree the applying the law to everyone equally. Just because you know someone in Law enforcement you can’t get away. First thing is to accept responsibility and charging those who committed crime. Otherwise, tomorrow it will Sinhalese and people clamoring to leave the Island. (Does anyone wants to live there anymore?) . Of course LTTE committed crimes but everyone is dead except KP and Karuna who are helping the govt. Now, if you think all Tamils should be punished for LTTE’s action then it is different but it should be done lawfully. May be courts can sentence them to be raped.

  • 5

    It is strange that these alleged rape and torture victims of SL Tamils turn up in the UK, EU and other developed first nation states. The victims also claim to have links to the banned LTTE. The chances of obtaining asylum for those who have been a part of a terrorist group are extremely slim, and therefore the best way for one arriving in the western world with forged documents would be to undergo torture by consent in order to build a case for asylum in the UK or other country. There were over 12,000 ex-LTTE cadre that underwent rehabilitation in several centres managed by the SL Army for periods in excess of an year, but none of these have come out with such allegations.There is no dearth of Tamil lawyers and others to handle such cases if such incidents come to light. In the period under review by HRW, there have been about a total of 12-15 cases of Army personnel charged for rape and punished by the courts as well by the Army.The total number of rapes recorded in the north and east in the same period exceeds 550 where the perpetrators have been Tamils themselves incl. expat Tamils on vacation vists to meet with relatives. MG

    • 1

      Not all rape allegations are made in west. There was a you tube video few years back where ex-LTTE women cadre in Srilanka were crying for help because of harassment by the Sri lankan armed forces every night. I remember, one woman says that she doesn’t want to go to home at night as the SL Army comes to her house every night. As I mentioned before if it is a crime to be a LTTE cadre, then the courts should sentenced them to be raped by the Armed forces not them going at night secretly.

  • 2

    Anybody fleeing the horror of war and seeking asylum will go to the nearest safe country, which is India. How come these people have to travel half way round the world before they feel safe!

    • 3

      I believe there are over 100,000 refugees in India.. see their condition after 30 years. If you can and have money you want to go to west.

    • 3


      “How come these people have to travel half way round the world before they feel safe!”

      Probably they feel safer when they are far far away from war criminals, racists, bigots, thugs, …… etc. By the way two years ago Australia was the safest destination for 6000 Sinhala speaking refugees. You ought to ask Namal baby about the entire people smuggling operation.

      How come these people have to travel half way round the world before they feel safer in Down Under?

      Excerpts from EPW

      Sri Lankan Boat Migration to Australia
      Motivations and Dilemmas
      Emily Howie

      August 31, 2013 vol xlviII no 35
      Economic & Political Weekly

      “Boat migration is not limited to Tamil people – 1,000 Sinhala
      people arrived in Australia in 2012. Even for those people,
      discrimination can coexist with their economic motivations. “

      “If the claims about the Sri Lankan government’s involvement
      in people smuggling are true, Australia’s border
      security partner is not just unreliable, but is preying on Australia’s


      By the way I am told in Europe, USA and Canada Sinhala speaking people have been increasingly consulting Tamil Immigration Lawyers. The trend started around 1988 according to informed sources.

  • 1

    Tilak de Silva is not a stray case of deranged mind. The majority of Sinhala supremacists live in denial – most of them to cover up the cruel crimes of their barbaric fraternity. Reconciliation will be a far cry so long as these accomplices and apologists live in denial? What happened in Haiti? UN engaged the Sri Lankan army men to maintain peace. True to their form and traits, the sex-maniacs started prowling the countryside preying on the poverty-stricken, starving young Haiti women. Following a hue and cry, the UN withdrew them en masse. The local Buddhist clergy of the type of BBS mould called it “international conspiracy” against their war-heroes. If the army personnel are paragons of virtue, as Tilak claims, why not submit to an independent international probe? Why run away,with pants down ?Charges are there even against the LTTE. Let the UNHRC probe the conduct of both.What are you scared of? Of course, LTTE also had committed crimes which need to be probed along with Crimes committed by Sinhala armed forces. BUT, no one dare accuse the LTTE of committing rape or sexual abuses against any women -Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim. On that count, they have a clean record. Even the deliberate meek and muted attempts occasionally made by Sinhala-owned media, to malign LTTE on that score have been flatly repudiated by a discerning international media and human rights organizations.

  • 0

    We are all against atrocities, and these must be punished, however dont make use atrocities as a political weapon

    • 1

      Atrocities a political weapon – Vanguard

      “We are all against atrocities, and these must be punished,”

      No you are not.

      “however dont make use atrocities as a political weapon”

      However violence has been and is commonly used as a political tool over the past 60 years.

      If not by politics how do you propose to change culture of atrocities and impunity enjoyed by perpetrators when political patronage heavily tilted against victims?

      Some facts about Dementia

      Common signs and symptoms of dementia include:

      Memory loss
      Impaired judgment
      Difficulties with abstract thinking
      Faulty reasoning
      Inappropriate behavior
      Loss of communication skills
      Disorientation to time and place
      Gait, motor, and balance problems
      Neglect of personal care and safety
      Hallucinations, paranoia, agitation

      You might observe that a person with dementia:

      repeatedly asks the same questions
      becomes lost or disoriented in familiar places
      is unable to follow directions
      is disoriented as to the date or time of day
      does not recognize and is confused about familiar people
      has difficulty with routine tasks such as paying the bills
      neglects personal safety, hygiene, and nutrition


  • 0

    See this website.
    Y not talk of these. This news site is like Tamil Net. There are two Tamil LTTE stories. One on a women who was a LTTE carder and other was in sexusl haresments for tamil. You read the stories of US Guantanamo Bay detention camp
    You see how Sri Lankan military persnal protected tamil people at the end of war in 2009

    • 2


      “There are two Tamil LTTE stories.”

      What do you want CT to publish? Do you want CT to glorify war criminals, crooks, drug smugglers, murderers, white vanning, …………. ?

      There is a humongous difference between Tamilnet and CT. Have you ever published a comment in Tamilnet?

      “You see how Sri Lankan military persnal protected tamil people at the end of war in 2009”

      You have read only the stories about how Sri Lankan military persnal protected Tamil people whereas you have conveniently missed those stories about war crimes and crimes against innocent people all over the island since 5th April 1971?

      Go read.

      ” You read the stories of US Guantanamo Bay detention camp”

      Are you in competition with USA in hitting the bottom of moral values?

      What is the problem with you?

  • 0

    We have to improve as a nation

    Problems should be resolved with mutual respect.

    Problems should not be allowed to fester.

    Government and Security should be impartial while respecting human rights.

    Give up petty communal and tribal behaviour.

    Give equal value to all human beings and respect democracy and equity.

    • 2

      Colombo Man

      “Give equal value to all human beings and respect democracy and equity.”

      Its a good idea, only an idea.

  • 1

    I am a Sinhalese & I CONDEMN these actions!!! Don’t do these,Not in my name..! Cruel & evil acts are not justified by the fact that the other side did the same..! I wish some of the Sinhalese who try and defend these, takes a good look at them self’s in the mirror.. and hopefully change! And yes, there is a culture of denial.. That said atrocities were committed from both sides, which again doesn’t justify it. There’s a constant war of Good Vs Evil & there’s both good & evil in any side & one should always fight Evil, no matter where it rears it’s ugly head from..

  • 1

    One thing is true that LTTE never rape a women of sinhala or muslim . they will accept this. They are very discipline movement and strict regulations governed them. This is indicated in the UN report on Sri Lanka. It is a fact we have to agree even we dont like LTTE rule.

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