Activists stress importance of new policies for women’s safety | Sunday Observer

Activists stress importance of new policies for women’s safety

This is a good time to see the political commitment to address violence against women because many women will be interested to hear what policies would be introduced in this regard, Human Rights Lawyer Ermiza Tegal said.

Women rights activists are stressing on the importance of introducing new policies to ensure women’s safety.

Sexual abuse

Their plea comes as a 17-year-old girl died on Tuesday (7) in Balangoda after she was sexually abused. Balangoda Magistrate’s Court remanded a 24-year-old man till July 21 after he was taken into custody by the police as the prime suspect in the case.

“My child went to bring her school uniform. She went missing afterwards. When we found her in a house she was lying on a bed unconscious,” the victim’s father told a media station.

The girl was first taken to the police station by her parents and relatives, and later was rushed to the Balangoda Base Hospital where she died. According to the Pinnawala police, the suspect has been nabbed before for sexual harassment. The Pinnawala police are r investigating the incident.

In a separate incident, five men were arrested by the police for harassing a foreign tourist on Galle Face this week. The arrests were made after the foreigner posted a video of the incident on Facebook. She said she was harassed during a walk in the popular tourist spot with three friends.

In May this year, police arrested six men after they sexually abused a 15-year-old girl in Sevenagala, Embilipitiya. Again in May this year, police arrested an 18-year-old youth over the sexual abuse of an elderly German woman in Beruwala.

In another incident, in February, National Child Protection Authority’s Special Police Investigation Unit arrested seven men for sexually abusing girls online. According to the Authority, the group has edited pictures of the women into pornographic images and blackmailed the victims by threatening to release the images online.

“What we hear are a few of the cases”, Tegal said, adding that a lot of women experience violence. “We haven’t done enough to stop them”.

She said candidates at the upcoming Parliamentary General Election should clearly state in their manifestos the specific changes they will introduce to tackle this issue.

“It shows a culture of impunity against violence against women and immunity given to rapists and sexual predators in this country. It is also due to structural failure and non enforcement of laws. At the core of this tragedy is the patriarchy and chauvinism,” human rights activist Shreen Saroor said.

‘In Sri Lanka, every three out of five women are victims of domestic violence, and only one per cent of victims use the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to obtain redress. In Sri Lanka, a woman is raped every 90 minutes and 97 per cent of rapists face no legal consequences’, states Women in Need (WIN) in its website adding, ‘three to five children are raped every day. In Sri Lanka, 95 per cent of women are sexually harassed in public transportation. Forty four per cent of pregnant women are beaten at home. More than two out of three women believe that they cannot refuse sex with their husbands. These numbers have been steadily on the rise and it’s time we put an end to this.”

Speaking to the Sunday Observer the Executive Director of WIN Savithri Wijesekera said the number of cases of violence against women has increased by up to 50 per cent from the past 15 to 20 years.

“What we see is that the violence inflicted on women and children are more brutal now than it was before,” Wijesekera said adding that cyber crime is also growing rapidly and women and children are blackmailed, extorted and abused by cyber criminals.

“Our laws are not sufficient to deal with cyber crimes. Another issue we see is that people do not know that there is help. They don’t know how to seek help and what their rights are.

Growing issue

“Policy makers should look at this as a growing issue. We see that now morals and values have deteriorated. There is also an issue of the younger generations. We see a new form of gender based violence,” she added.

Wijesekera said that there needs to be awareness creation in different areas, especially in remote parts of the country, on how to deal with violence and how to report about them.

“In the Balangoda case the suspect has previous records of abuse against women. Does this mean the criminal justice system gives these criminals bail easily? How do we address the case of repeat offenders?” she said.