Sri Lankan President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, claimed yesterday during International Women’s Day that he would work to create an equal platform for women, free from violence, despite record levels of sexual violence.
Amnesty International has reported that in just the first 15 days of 2020, there have already been 142 cases of rape, 42 cases of “serious sexual abuse” and 54 cases of child abuse. Amnesty notes that “impunity for sexual and gender-based violence is high in Sri Lanka, despite repeated assurances by consecutive governments to address the issue”. According to the government’s own records in 2017, 294 cases of rape were reported and 281 remained pending during the year. These numbers exclude a large number of cases which go unreported every year.
Amnesty further states that only a small percentage of cases actually make it to the Magistrates and High Courts whilst a large number sit with the Attorney General’s department.
It is important to further note the role Sri Lanka’s security forces have played in perpetuating sexual violence on the island. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who served as the Defence Secretary during the end of the armed conflict, oversaw the genocide of 40,000 Tamil civilians; the disappearance of numerous journalists and the routine use of torture and sexual violence.
In February 2020, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns over Sri Lanka’s ability to adequately deal with the issue of impunity. They stated on a report on Sri Lanka that the government’s inability to “deal comprehensively with impunity and to reform institutions may cause the recurrence of human rights violations”.
Speaking to reporters on International Women’s Day, Gotabaya stated;
“I am also very proud of the many achievements and the victories gained by our Sri Lankan women that have done our country proud. My administration is committed to creating a platform where Sri Lankan women can contribute to the betterment of our society as an equal partner.
We will provide an environment where she will make her own decisions and be free to fulfil her aspirations.
She will not be subject to any violence or discrimination”.
Read more from Colombo Page.