The Batticaloa district has been hit by a sex abuse scandal after reports that local women working for local and international Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been appearing in pornographic films sold locally.
Batticaloa and Trincomalee Bishop Kingsley Swamipillai told The Sunday Times he believed such abuse of women had been going on for some time and he welcomed the probe.
Batticaloa’s Senior Police Superintendent Maxi Proctor said no formal complaints of such sexual abuse had been made yet but he had read about it in leaflets.
Leaflets warning women to quit working for NGOs have been circulated across the eastern coast. The leaflets, distributed by an organisation calling itself the Tamil Eelam Women’s Uprising Army, warned all women working in NGOs to quit their jobs. The warning stated “your future life may be endangered” if this directive is not obeyed.
The Sunday Times reports the matter has not been officially reported to the police because the victims are afraid to come forward apparently due to the stigma attached to it and possible reprisals.
The crisis has reached such serious proportions that Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Batticaloa district MPs have requested District Secretary S. Puniyamoorthy to summon an urgent meeting with heads of both local and international NGOs in the district to probe the charges and take remedial action.
Akkaraipattu Inspector A. Gaffar told the Daily Mirror one DVD contains explicit video clips of a foreigner sexually abusing a 19-20 year old Tamil girl. The DVD apparently contains shots taken in the Elle area in Badulla. The DVDs are available for Rs. 50 in open markets across the Eastern province, reported the paper.
Later press reports said a young girl from Amparai had killed herself after appearing in a DVD. The 23-year-old from Karaitivu, who had been employed on a part time basis by an NGO in the area, said unknown men in a white van had driven her home from the NGO office one day knocked her out and released her three days later.
The Daily Mirror reported that the girl left a note saying she believed she had been raped by the men while she was held captive and that is why she committed suicide. However, the paper said she had appeared in some of the pornographic DVDs circulating in the area, which portrayed local girls with foreigners and that was why she had killed herself.
The leaflet also quotes a statement made by the Batticaloa TNA MP Pakkiaselvam Ariyanenthiran which states that “183 Tamil speaking girls in Batticaloa and 163 in Ampara district have undergone abortions,” and that these women were “employees of NGOs.”
These details were repeated made at a recent seminar on “Tamil women and culture” in Pawattan Thirukkovil.
The leaflet claims that “women working in NGOs are sexually abused” and that “in some cases where the abortions were not successful, they are on the verge of giving birth”. It also claims that parents who allow their daughters to work for NGOs should be held responsible for these supposed atrocities.
Meanwhile, the LTTE’s Batticaloa political wing leader Daya Mohan summoned a meeting of NGO representatives on Friday and told them the Tigers had evidence of sexual abuse of women. He warned there would be serious consequences if such abuse was not stopped.
Batticaloa district TNA Parliamentarian K.Thangeswari said they also had taken up the matter with some local and foreign NGOs and told them they need to respect local customs and traditions if they wished to work in the area.
The sexual abuse had allegedly taken place mainly in some of the worst tsunami-affected areas such as Nawaladi and Thiruchenthur in the Kalladi area. The women had been subjected to abuse after they were taken to distant places on the pretext of being taken for training, according to UN project officials in Batticaloa district.
The training programmes which lasted more than a week in some cases were held in hotels and women employees were allegedly coerced into posing for pornographic videos in exchange for cash handouts. The names of four leading international NGOs operating in these areas have been linked to these allegations, reports the Sunday Times.
More than 10,000 women are employed in nearly 300 NGOs and international NGOs in these districts. Many of them were set up after the tsunami in December, 2004.
NGO sources told the Daily Mirror two mosques in Kalmunai and Saindamaradu had publicly requested women to leave the NGOs. However, the Police did not corroborate this statement.
Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) Executive Director Jeevan Thiagarajah noted that a joint plea has been forwarded to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, IGP Chandra Fernando and the DIG East asking for protection for female NGO workers in the region.
The racket came to light when a lady doctor who allegedly performed some 75 abortions on the affected women made a confession. As a preliminary move to stopping the abuse, women workers have been told not to work in the NGOs or INGOs after 5 p.m. and to attend seminars only in the main offices instead of going to distant places.
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