Sexual abuse against women and children continue unabated — Zonta

By Steve A. Morrell

Sexual abuse against women, girls and sometimes children, continue unabated, said Ms. Sumithra Fernando, joint District Secretary, Zonta Club 1 of Colombo.

Although the media campaign gained momentum, its importance commanded only lackadaisical responses from official sources. Sexual abuse in public locations including busses continues unchecked., she said at a press conference convened by Zonta International, District 25, to highlight the rising incidence of violence against women.

What has to be done is that if such incidents occur in busses, for example, women must get the bus number, or inform the driver to stop the bus at the nearest police station and record an appropriate complaint, she suggested.

She said there were instances that demanded evidence of witnesses. Such persons will not stand in as witnesses because they do not want to get involved. Additionally, sexual harassment in workplaces too cause continuous concern and result in women having to give up their jobs.

Men and boys perpetrate such harassment and usually are not exposed. If such police action has been initiated, they get round the women, and any action is withdrawn till such violence is repeated, Fernando said.

Chairperson, NIROGI Lanka Project, Professor Chandrika Wijeratne said although Sri Lanka was ahead of other countries in controlling gender violence, forced by the stigma of peer ridicule and close proximity of rural living had brought to bear some degree of control. But, irrespective of such influences the worsening situation is not contained.

This is not restricted to the lower social strata, but is rampant in middle class homes, some well-to-do families as well. Considering the stigma that could overtake them, they prefer to suffer in silence and not expose their husbands, she noted.

"We also have had information that when such abused women report domestic violence to the police, in time the policemen too takes advantage of the vulnerable victim and causes additional trauma. Rather that solving a problem, the situation is worsened, she explained.

Male domination continues to hamper any progress, particularly because weaknesses in the government system; although there is a Ministry of Women’s Affairs who should be in the forefront to formulate some restrictive influences this has not been done, Prof. Wijeratne said.

According to reports, 60 percent women were subjected to violence in 2011. In 2013, the increase was recorded at 80 percent. Sri Lanka is rated the fifth highest among countries where women do not have recourse fair treatment.

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