Sexual Bribery: Evidence gathering a huge challenge | Sunday Observer

Sexual Bribery: Evidence gathering a huge challenge

1 December, 2019
The panelists from right: Shreen Saroor, Shyamala Gomez, DIG Priyantha Jayakody and moderator Shashi de Mel.
The panelists from right: Shreen Saroor, Shyamala Gomez, DIG Priyantha Jayakody and moderator Shashi de Mel.

Last Wednesday was a day for women, when both genders gathered en masse to discuss the less-spoken topic ‘sexual bribery’. Of all claims and questions that filled the air,Women’s Rights Activist Shreen Saroor, identified the issue as ‘the law’.

“There are so many laws in the country that makes women vulnerable to give sexual bribes. We have unequal laws and policies. The problem starts with women being unable to head a household,” said Saroor, a panelist, at the discussion on the ‘Challenges and Solutions for Sexual Bribery’, held at the BMICH.

She also came hard on the law and order force, citing lack of trust. “Tamil women in the North-East find it difficult to step into a police station. This is because only a Tamil is available as a translator. He goes on to caution and discourage the victim in disclosing details,” Saroor said.

Adding to the number of challenges, evidence gathering has also been a huge challenge, as a woman is unlikely to video record a sexual bribery being solicited.

“It’s rampant,” she said of the issue labeling it as “a disease”.

“Financial bribery comes with that of the privacy of the statement provider. It’s not purely a disease of sexual bribery. It starts with patriarchal norms, beliefs, laws, practices and policies.”

Single women have been forced to access government services where the structure is male dominant. Be it law enforcement or military, women have been going to courtrooms, looking for their missing family members. In such instances, women testified claim, when they look for missing family members, some intelligent officers misguide them asking them to come to Anuradhapura in search of their husband or brother. Ultimately, it ends with a gruesome rape.

Saroor said even for the wounded women to provide their personal account of the rape is a huge problem.

“From courtroom to where ever, we have read of so many red tape cases, where women are raped by lawyers verbally. We have that much of a masculine structure,”

When a complaint is made, the Bribery Commission should take strong and stern action. The officers know it is not a joke. The first course of action, when a complaint is lodged is, the accused officer is transferred.

“No, they have to be suspended, immediately,”Saroor said. Zero tolerance should be in every government office, bank or private sector workplace.

From her point of view, she reckoned, the problem lay in the structure and the panacea is making it flexible.

“The masculine structure has always been preying on women and women suffer because of this. Structural inequalities make women vulnerable to access required services.”

The next panelist, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Police, Crimes and Organized crimes, Priyantha Jayakody, said there were 44 police divisions, comprising 496 police stations with over 2,000 Tamil police officers on duty.However, he admitted, the need of the hour is “more women” as “Ladies are reluctant to come and share their personal issues before men.”

A victim can’t be coaxed to lodge a complaint, he said. Walking us through an example, where a senior police officer had been penalized for insisting that a mother and daughter lodge a complaint. In separate efforts undertaken to tackle it, DIG Jayakody recalled and credited, a former Chief Minister who helped in the cause.

Senior Manager, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), Shashi de Mel briefly shared the contribution her organization has made to eliminate sexual bribery, outlined its social media campaigns and post campaigns initiated in hospitals, schools and in rural areas.

Another aspect of this under-arm practice has been, trafficked ladies from Russia and Thailand, working in so-called spa centres, she said. The taboo topic, has also victimized transgenders, whom society has excluded.

Executive Director, Centre for Equality and JusticeShyamala Gomez in her concluding remarks said the work of creating awareness has to be continued while sexual bribery has to be brought under the anti-corruption network.