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Human Rights NGOs condemn rape by Sri Lanka armed forces
At the 50th Sessions of the UN Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, non governmental organisations condemned the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war by the Sri Lanka armed forces. (you may click on the adjacent icon to take a quick tour). The World Organisation against Torture declared on 12 August 1998 :
"OMCT would also like to draw the attention of the Sub-Commission to the situation of Tamil women in Sri Lanka.... Sri Lankan soldiers have raped both women and young girls on a massive scale, and often with impunity, since reporting often leads to reprisals against the victims and their families.
On the 25th of June 1998, the army chief of the Mirusuvil army camp in the Jaffna area, ordered Kanthasamy Kalanithy, a 26-year old Tamil woman, to marry one of his Sinhalese soldiers. He forced her to stand in front of ten Sri Lankan soldiers and to choose one of them, When she refused to respond he ordered one of the soldiers to put a pottu (a red spot signifying her marriage to him) on her forehead. When she screamed in protest, she was gang-raped and then killed. The army refused to hand over her body for examination and they have attempted to threaten her parents into silence."
The Womens International Democratic Federation commented on the same day, in an oral intervention:
".. In Sri Lanka, Tamil women are treated as booty of war and many cannot give their testimonies because of intimidation against their family and children."
International Educational Development declared on 13 August 1998:
"The consistent policy of rape and violence against Tamil women that we have documented for many years is a fundamental military tactic of the Sri Lankan forces. The Krishanthy case has been well documented here, and the Sri Lankan government has used this case to show that perpetrators of rape are prosecuted. Of course, this is the only case in which perpetrators have been prosecuted. And the defendants were given the death sentence which does not exist in Sri Lanka. Is this a show trial? We think so. The government military forces are still raping Tamil women with impunity. Many of the victims disappear, as part of the grim statistics making the Commission's Working Group on Disappearances note with alarm that Sri Lanka leads the list in 1997 for disappearances."
Pax Romana, intervening in the discussion under Agenda Item 5 on the implementation of the human rights of women on 14 August 1998, declared
"......Reports about Tamil women being raped by the army are on the rise. Only one of the thousands of rapes which have been reported, has resulted in a conviction. Victims are frightened of reprisals and there seems to be little point in reporting their cases, since the only place to lodge a complaint is with the very same security forces who commit the rapes. There also seems to be little point to expect justice on the basis of the constitution since the constitution itself provides the mechanisms and justifications for the commission of these war crimes and encourages impunity. Let us only refer to one incident of a 26 year old Tamil woman. On 25 June 1998 the young, Tamil woman from Mirusuvil in Jaffna peninsula resisted to be forced into marriage to a Sinhala soldier and 10 Sri Lankan army soldiers therefore gang raped and murdered her..."
North-South XXI in a careful analysis declared on 14 August 1998:
"....In the Tamil homeland areas we have a situation where the Tamil population was not and is not cooperating with the Sinhalese dominant group in government because they had been disempowered and excluded. Systematic rape therefore has been used and is still being used by the Singhalese state security forces as a way to break Tamil women and their community.
There are deliberately no mechanisms put in place for women to report rape to any impartial and independent authority. For women who are living under Sinhalese army occupation the only place to report rape is to the same military which is perpetrating rape. UN Special Rapporteur Mr Bacre Ndiaye said that "Torture is reportedly used by the armed forces ..to intimidate the population".
Mr. Bacre Ndiaye’s report indicates that the legal provisions that exsist in Sri Lanka allow the security forces to arrest, torture, rape, kill and bury bodies with impunity.
In one highly publicised case an 18 year old schoolgirl was abducted on her way home from school where she had just done her A level Chemistry paper. Krishanthy was abducted at an army checkpoint by a gang of soldiers. Later her mother, younger brother and a neighbour were also abducted at the checkpoint when they went to find her. There was an international protest about the disappearances because Krishanthy had relatives in Colombo and London. When the Sri Lankan government was forced to produce the bodies they had to exhume them from a place where 300 to 400 other bodies were also buried. Krishanthy had been raped by eleven members of the security forces and her body had been torn in pieces and so had her younger brother’s. Her mother and the neighbour had been strangled.
The Sri Lankan government was forced to put on a serious trial with the eyes of the international community watching closely. They eventually convicted some soldiers to 30 years in prison and others were given the death penalty. But no change was made at all in the legal provisions that allowed the security forces to arrest, rape, kill and bury Krishanthy without a post-mortem.
What the Sri Lankan government did with Krishanthy’s case was to make it into a showpiece, so that the Government can answer any difficult questions about the human rights situation for Tamil women. If you take a look at all the cases of rape, sexual abuse, sexual torture and sexual mutilation of Tamil women by the Sinhalese security forces there is no change at all in the pattern. If we look at the data for a whole year before, and a whole year after, the beginning of the trial of Krishanthy’s rapists, there is no change in how persistently and continuously the Sinhalese security forces raping Tamil women.
Particularly brutal cases are these: Last September, a six-year old Tamil girl was raped by a gang of Sinhalese soldiers in the North as she passed an army checkpoint on her way to school, in October a Tamil woman’s body was washed up on the shores with both her breasts cut off, in October a 49 year old woman was raped and murdered by Sinhalese armed forces, her son told how they had butchered her genitals after gang raping her. In January, a 17 year old Tamil girl was gang raped by Sinhalese soldiers and she was found physically paralysed from her waist down because of the raping. There is case after case, and sometimes women have died from the raping.
Rape of women living under army occupation is a terrifying experience, the brutality of the street enters the home, enters a woman’s most sexually intimate places. This brutalisation of women’s sexuality, the place of life creation, is unbearable for many Tamil women. They do not kill themselves because of a social stigma, they kill themselves because they cannot live with the pyschological destruction that rape by the army has brought on them, rape at the point of a gun, a rape that can be repeated any time of day or night, a rape that no one can protect them from.
Mr. Chairman, Systematic rape of Tamil women living in their homeland by the Sri Lankan armed forces has been going on for decades. Before the Sinhalese armed occupation of the Tamil homeland, the security forces were organising pogroms against the Tamils, where Sinhalese men gang-raped hundreds of Tamil women before burning them alive. The pogroms happened regularly throughout the last fifty years, and the rapings and murders were never punished by the Sinhalese state, each pogrom bigger than the last, until the all out war began.
Why is it that the international community rarely hears about the systematic rape of Tamil women by the security forces? Because generally we do not hear about excluded and disempowered nations in a multi-nation state. And when a racial dictatorship is covered by the formal democratic procedures it is very easy for that government to talk on behalf of the people it oppresses, as if everything was fine..."