High incidence of sexual abuse and harassment of disabled – engineer

By Harischandra Gunaratna
 Social Empowerment and Welfare Minister S. B. Dissanayake on Wednesday welcomed Sri Lanka becoming a signatory to United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Disabled Persons. He said the ratification of Sri Lanka’s adoption of the declaration was a boon to many disabled persons who had been hitherto neglected.
 Addressing the media at the Ministry office at Sethsiripaya, Battaramulla, the Minister said, “It is the duty of all citizens to help this segment our society as facilities for them need to be improved.”
 He said that in the developed countries the disabled were provided with necessary facilities and the standards were quite high. Sri Lanka should strive to be on par with such countries, the Minister added.
 M. C. Mendis, President, Sri Lanka Technicians Association, himself a disabled person, said in Asia the society looked down upon the disabled.
 Mendis said: “There is a high incidence of disabled males and females and those struck with autism being subjected to sexual abuse in Sri Lanka and as a result parents of such children are reluctant to let them work.”
 He said among them there were exceptionally talented persons and if they kept away from work it was a loss to the country.
 The chartered engineer pointed out that there were no proper safeguards for such children at their workplaces and the culprits got away scot-free.
 A disabled person holding a responsible position in the state sector who spoke on condition of anonymity said in most cases the management and the colleagues of the victims had turned a blind eye to those issues when the disabled working in their workplaces faced sexual abuse or harassment.
 He cited an incident which had taken place a few months back, where an autistic young man attached to a leading restaurant in Colombo was sexually abused on several occasions by four of his co-workers.
 The suspects had been arrested and produced before the Gangodawila Magistrate and granted bail, but the law had been notoriously lenient on those criminals, he said.
 The state sector executive said stringent laws had to be introduced to deal with such men and women and there should be close supervision at workplaces.
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