UN-backed forum against gender based violence opposes death penalty

*Deputy Justice Minister calls for devolution of AG’s powers


Women and Child Affairs Minister Chandrani Bandara addressing the media at Colombo Hilton Residences on Thursday. She is flanked by Deputy Justice Minister Dushmantha Mithrapala and Dr. Sepali Kottegoda (Pic by Sujatha Jayaratne)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The UN-backed Forum against Gender Based Violence yesterday declared that it wouldn’t back moves being made to resume judicial executions in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Sepali Kottegoda of the Women and Media Collective stressed the forum’s position at a media briefing at the Colombo Hilton Residences. Dr. Kottegoda was responding to a query by The Island consequent to Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA Representative and Forum Chair briefly discussed the UN led 16-day project aimed at tackling gender-based violence as well as human rights.

Sibenaler asserted that perhaps the project should continue throughout the year though New York felt 16 days of activism against gender-based violence would do.

Asked whether the forum had, in line with its principle objective, made an attempt to discourage the LTTE from using women in war especially in suicide attacks Dr. Kottegoda said that the forum was against such situations under any circumstances.

Established in 2005 in the run-up to eruption of eelam war IV, the forum comprises 50 agencies, including state, UN, national and international NGOs, community-based organizations as well as experts in the field.

Among those at the head table were Women and Child Affairs Minister Chandrani Bandara and Deputy Justice Minister Dushmantha Mithrapala and Chandrani Senaratne, Secretary to Women and Child Affairs Ministry.

Senaratne told The Island that the contentious issue of judicial executions had come up for debate since UNP MP Hirunika Premachandra moved an adjournment motion in Parliament recently. However, many members of parliament, including Minister Chandrani Bandara said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t resume judicial executions though tough laws were required to ensure public safety. Senaratne expressed concern over judges handing out suspended sentences for those found guilty of rape. Senaratne acknowledged the need for a dialogue among all stakeholders as the Women and Child Affairs couldn’t tackle gender-based violence on its own.

The official asserted that the government couldn’t ignore the stand taken by the European Union as regards judicial executions. The EU reiterated its strong opposition to resumption of capital punishment under any circumstances.

Minister Bandara explained measures taken by the government to improve security to women and children.

Dr. Kottegoda stressed that theirs was a continuous project whereas the 16- day campaign symbolized the effort.

Deputy Justice Minister Mithrapala called for a resolute effort to strengthen judicial safeguards to ensure the safety of women and children. Having referred to a recent familiarization tour of China undertaken by a group of newly elected parliamentarians, Mithrapala said the people had been seriously harassed by inordinate delays in the justice system. A child abuse case here could drag on for nearly seven years whereas the Chinese judiciary would hear a case within six months.

The Deputy Minister called for tangible measures to upgrade law enforcement agencies while asserting that powers of the Attorney General should be devolved to speed up the process.

The Deputy Minister censured judges for giving suspended sentences at the expense of victims.

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