The past few days have shown horrific incidents taking place in this country with regard to the abuse of children. I don't know if the situation has worsened over the years, or that it is brought to our attention more frequently because of increased reporting by all forms of media, but a question I have heard asked many times this week is has it always been this bad? I would hazard a guess and say yes. Abuse is not new, rape is not new; women were getting masturbated on buses long before we started blogging about it. But the more important question now is, what are we going to do about it?
Allow me to bring you up to speed, courtesy a press release from Women and Media Collective, highlighting a few of the incidents that have taken place over the past 6 months.
- The rape and murder of women in Kahawatta (2011/12).
- The abuse of a Russian woman in Tangalla by the Tangalla Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman and 5 others. (December 2011).
- The abduction and rape of a 13 year old girl by the son of a wealthy businessman in Anuradhapura. (January 2012)
- The rape of a 14 year old girl by the Chairperson of the Akuressa Pradeshiya Sabha and one of his relatives. (March 2012).
- The rape of a 13 year old girl by a member of the Tangalla Municipal Council along with 5 other persons. (June 2012)
- The rape of another 14 year old girl by the Chairperson of the Akuressa Pradeshiya Sabha over a period of two days at a guest house owned by him. (June 2012)
- The rape and murder of a 6 year old girl by a male relative and two of his friends in Wellawatte. (June 2012)
According to SP Ajith Rohana, to date on July 5th, 975 rape cases, out of which approximately 700 were statutory rape cases, have been reported in 2012. In 2011, 1775 rapes were reported, out of which 1169 were statutory rape. Given that research suggests that between 75-95% of rapes are never reported to the police, and using the lower figure of 75%, that gives us a staggering 7100 rapes that have possibly occurred in 2011, out of which 4686 were children.
But of course these are just numbers. Imagine if you will a small girl, naked, scared, in dreadful pain, while a bunch of drunk men rape her, repeatedly, over a number of days. This is the image I haven't been able to get out of my mind ever since I heard this story. These are small children; it could be my sister, your daughter. What are we doing to stop this?
The fact that many of the accused in the above crimes are government officials would not have escaped your notice. The thought that these people could use their influence and get off with no penalty makes me sick. The fact that law enforcement officials know about these incidents and fail to act immediately due to political influence makes me sick. These are children.
So what are we going to do about it? It's heartening to see the media and citizens picking up these issues and writing to the papers about it. The relevant authorities are talking about it. Even the SLFP has made a weak gesture by sacking their party members. Personally, I am all for castration and life imprisonment but even symbolic gestures are a move towards creating an environment of complete intolerance towards child abuse. Rigourous imprisonment and hefty fines are still completely inadequate for ruining the life of a child, and causing the kind of physical and mental abuse he or she has to live with forever.
There is a protest planned for Friday, at Lipton Circus at 2.00pm. I encourage you to attend. As one of my colleagues said, sometimes you just need to stand up and be counted. But it can't stop there. Be vigilant, be vocal. If you see something, say something, do something. The sexual harassment of women and children, of any person really, is completely and totally unacceptable, and unless we, as citizens, make it known that we will not tolerate it, then we too should be held responsible for the atrocities that take place.