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Sri Lankan police turn a blind eye to domestic violence

Speaking to the media, Senior DIG Attorney Ajith Rohana admitted that “under no circumstances” would they separate a married couple in cases of domestic abuse.

When questioned if the police would take a different approach if there were continuous complaints, Rohana claimed the police would take action but not in cases of “slight abuse” or “abuse and threats”.

“Unlike European countries we have a culture, we have values, we have ethics” Rohana claimed. He maintained the need to remand abusers as it may lead to the couple separating. “Then what happens to the children” he asked.

According to the US State Department, whilst Sri Lankan law prohibits rape and domestic violence enforcement of the law is inconsistent. Furthermore, spousal rape is only prohibited in circumstances in which the couple are legally separated.

The penalty for rape ranges from seven to twenty years and a and a fine of at least 200,000 rupees, a modest amount. Victims of domestic violence may obtain a protection order for one year and request a maintenance allowance. However, women’s organisations in Sri Lanka have repeatedly reported that police and judiciary responses to rape and domestic violence incidents and cases are inadequate.

This statement follows a damning report by Human Rights Watch which detailed increased abuses and killings by the Sri Lankan police. It further detailed the police undertaking “invasive body searches of female suspects”.

HRW urged the international community in connection to law enforcement agencies in the island, including the UK government’s Police Scotland, to suspend assistance until the Rajapaksa government takes concrete steps to investigate police abuses.

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