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Vishvamadu rape case highlights structural sexual violence against minorities says WAN

The case of a Tamil woman raped by Sri Lankan military soldiers in Vishvamadu highlights the structural nature of the sexual violence against ethnic minority women in Sri Lanka, and the barriers such victims face in seeking justice, said a collective of women's groups based in the North-East, Women's Action Network (WAN), on Thursday.

Saluting the bravery of one of the victims who pursued justice despite being intimidated and harassed by the military after she lodged a complaint in June 2010, WAN criticised the "insensitive manner in which the [southern] media has reported on or dealt with cases of sexual violence against women" including this case.

"Often the media has refused to print cases that have implicated the Sri Lankan Military or State Actors and in instances where they have, the reporting remains gender insensitive," WAN added.

See here for full statement, which includes details of the victim's pursuit for justice.

Extracts reproduced below:

In the past WAN has handled several cases of this nature where women who were raped, tortured and have even been murdered by security personnel. Due to threats against their own personal safety and the safety of their family members, women have refused to file official complaints regarding such accounts of sexual violence and assault.  The pressure tactics of the military has exacerbated delays in case proceedings and the harassment of victim women continue unabated thereby preventing the women from seeking justice through the Sri Lankan judicial system. The recently released Investigation On Sri Lanka (IOSL) report by High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al-hussein clearly set outs the structural and systemic manner in which the rape and sexual torture of men and women was conducted by the armed forces and police of Sri Lanka. The recent case in Kilinochchi where a mother whose baby accidentally died was detained and  sexually tortured by police officers, including the insertion of pole inside her vagina, highlights the systemic nature of sexual torture  and violence. 

There are many more women like the women in Vishwamadu and Mannar  who suffer in silence and bear the scars of such brutal crimes while their violators enjoy amnesty and continue to commit such grave crimes against women. These crimes are not committed by the military alone but also by various government officers, politicians and people in power, reflecting the level of impunity that exists within State apparatuses. In such cases, the police often refuse to file a complaint, refuse to arrest or investigate and ensure that the case is prolonged. Hence, often justice for women is not only delayed and denied but remains blind and insensitive.

We are fully aware of the fact that sexual harassment and assault, torture, mutilation, rape and murder are not mere misfortunes of armed conflict, but strategies that have been used against women for the purposes of keeping minority communities  subservient, spreading terror, destabilizing societies and most importantly entrenching patriarchal power. Sexual violence against women cannot end overnight and the government in its human rights action plan and upcoming policies must take progressive steps to create awareness within society while promoting women’s equality and justice for all.


Related article: Sri Lankan soldiers sentenced for gang rape of Tamil woman (07 Oct 2015)

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