SL WAR WID­OWS FACE SEX­UAL EX­PLOITA­TION: CBK

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FRONT PAGE -

Tamil women who sur­vived Sri Lanka’s civil war now face wide­spread sex­ual ex­ploita­tion by of­fi­cials in their own com­mu­nity as well as from the army, the head of an eth­nic rec­on­cil­i­a­tion body said on Wed­nes­day.

There is a lot of sex­ual abuse still go­ing on by of­fi­cials, even Tamil of­fi­cials and even at lower lev­els, the grama se­vakas (vil­lage of­fi­cials)

For­mer Pres­i­dent Chan­drika Ku­maratunga, the chair­per­son of the Of­fice for Na­tional Unity and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, said women who were wid­owed dur­ing the 37-year con­flict were among the vic­tims of abuse by of­fi­cials who fre­quently de­manded sex­ual favours just to carry out rou­tine pa­per­work.

“There is a lot of sex­ual abuse still go­ing on by of­fi­cials, even Tamil of­fi­cials and even at lower lev­els, the grama se­vakas (vil­lage of­fi­cials),” she told Sri Lanka’s For­eign Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

“Even to sign a doc­u­ment, they abuse the women and of course some peo­ple in the (armed) forces con­tinue to com­mit sex­ual abuse,” she said.

Ku­maratunga, who lost an eye in a Tamil Tiger sui­cide bomb­ing when she was pres­i­dent at the height of the con­flict, said the best way to make women less vul­ner­a­ble was to im­prove their liveli­hoods. “We feel that when women have liveli­hoods, they will be em­pow­ered… they feel safer and they don’t have to be ex­ploited,” she said.

Ku­maratunga said many women had been trau­ma­tised as a re­sult of the sex­ual abuse and needed psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port but the au­thor­i­ties lacked qual­i­fied ex­perts to treat them.

“We can­not bring coun­sel­lors from abroad be­cause they won’t know the lan­guage,” she said. Many women, par­tic­u­larly wid­ows, have strug­gled in the war’s af­ter­math to ob­tain iden­tity pa­pers and birth cer­tifi­cates which are es­sen­tial to ob­tain gov­ern­ment hand­outs and other aid.

Pros­e­cu­tions of mil­i­tary per­son­nel or of­fi­cials for sex crimes are rare in Sri Lanka, al­though four sol­diers were jailed for 25 years for the gang-rape of a young Tamil mother in 2010, a year af­ter the war ended.

At least 100,000 Sri Lankans lost their lives dur­ing the con­flict that saw hor­rific abuses by both sides. (AFP)

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