What’s One Billion Rising (OBR) and why should you rise?
Kamla Bhasin, world famous feminist writer and activist, who’s leading OBR in South Asia– gave us a quick interview on the worldwide campaign.
Video- filmed and edited by Megara Tegal in Nepal.
In Sri Lanka sexual offenders are pretty much the same as petty thieves. After all, assaulting and raping a 12 year old girl is the same as stealing mangoes from your neighbours garden– at least that’s how our judiciary see it.
In 1995, after much coercion by women’s rights lawyers and activists, a law was passed stating that anyone found guilty of committing a sexual offence will receive a minimum prison sentence of seven to ten years. Now that law acted as a deterrent. It was a strict sentence that would ensure that the more devious of men would not act on their lascivious urges for fear of being contained behind bars for several years. Progress was being made up until 2008, when a particular High Court Judge in Anuraddhapura, felt it wasn’t fair to dispense such a harsh ruling on a man who had consensual sex with a 16 year old girl. The victim and the accused had eloped, gotten married and started life together as a married couple. With consent from the Supreme Court, the judge simply ruled a ‘suspended sentence’. A suspended sentence is the blacklisting of criminals who are free from any form of punishment unless another complaint is made aganist them.
Using this verdict several criminal lawyers have helped sexual offenders escape serving a prison term. Since 2008 to 2009, it’s been found that of 129 reported cases identified by LHRD, an alarming 114 received a suspended sentence which included a paltry compensation fine and freedom to harass the victim and maybe even commit the crime over again but this time around make sure the victim doesn’t spill the beans on him.
That’s 88% of the reported cases. 88% of those who have been found guilty of sexual offences- some as harsh as violently assaulting and raping a woman, ganging raping a woman who was waiting for her bus in the middle of the night, and a man who repeatedly raped his niece and threatened to kill her if she spoke about it- all free to walk among us.
Will the ‘suspended sentencing’ of sexual offenders be lifted? Going by what the Attorney General’s Department said at a press conference organised by the Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRD) on the matter- not too soon; if anytime at all.
Attorney, Kalyananda Thiranagama who is also the executive director of Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRW) stated that court proceedings must speed up. One of the reason’s a suspended sentence is declared is because the court cases are prolonged. While Dr. Mario Gomez of the Law Commission of Sri Lanka said that at the very least the Supreme Court should set up guidelines to direct High Court Judges when passing verdicts on sexual offenders. The Attorney General’s Department however, did not have a satisfactory response, instead they were vague and uncommitted.
So what hope is there? Well for now we can raise awareness. Having read this do share this information with friends and family, if we can make enough noise about it, maybe the government will finally realise that intimidation and forced sex is nothing close to a petty crime.
– Megara Tegal
Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist, part time TV show host, 3rd grade caricature artist, student in social sciences and she holds the world prize for klutz-iness. Her opinions are her own. She blogs here.
Day thirteen features a photograph by Rushda Mohinudeen.
While gender-based violence has recently emerged as a salient topic in the human security community, it has been framed principally with respect to violence against women and girls, particularly sexual violence. In this article, I argue that gender-based violence against men (including sexual violence, forced conscription, and sex-selective massacre) must be recognized as such, condemned, and addressed by civilian protection agencies and proponents of a ‘human security’ agenda in international relations. Men deserve protection against these abuses in their own right; moreover, addressing gender-based violence against women and girls in conflict situations is inseparable from addressing the forms of violence to which civilian men are specifically vulnerable.
– Sage Journals Online
Watch this blog for the next 4 days. We’ll be posting a featured photograph each day till 10 December as part of WMC campaign against GBV.
For more information about this campaign click here
Rushda Mohinudeen is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She heads ReachOut (a women’s rights group), works at an advertising agency and enjoys calling people koonjis. More of her photography can be found here.