Halt attacks on women candidates – polls monitors

Many have stopped campaigning for fear of attacks

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Election monitors have once again urged the government to take immediate action against attacks on female candidates in the local government (LG) polls fray. Several of them have been physically abused in the last 72 hours.

The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) and the People’s Action For Free & Fair Elections (PAFFREL) said some of the candidates had also been sexually abused. PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said they had received 18 complaints so far of attacks on female candidates.

"There have been attempts in Thambuttegama, Anuradhapura and Welikanda, Polonnaruwa to sexually abuse female candidates. They were assaulted in Nuwara Eliya, Galle, Wellawaya, Polonnaruwa. In Puttalam, the young child of a candidate was threatened by supporters of a rival political party."

"We have received around 26 serious complaints from female candidates. It is obvious that many female candidates are facing serious obstacles in contesting in some parts of the country," said Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, Executive Director of CaFFE.

He said many female candidates were not campaigning in those hotspots and if they had campaigned, there would have been many more attacks. "During our work in the North Western and Eastern provinces, a number of female candidates, grassroots female activists and community leaders have informed us that there is a systematic campaign to demoralise, dehumanise and discredit female candidates by certain Muslim clerics attached to controversial organisations that are bent on ruining reconciliation and ethnic harmony."

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