Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One third of all pregnancies in Sri Lanka end in abortion, with an estimated 600 to 700 abortions carried throughout the country daily...!!!

A shocking 700 abortions a day in Lanka

Approximately one third of all pregnancies in Sri Lanka end in abortion, with an estimated 600 to 700 abortions carried throughout the country daily.

Addressing the joint commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 40th Anniversary of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), UNPF Representative for Sri Lanka, Lene K. Christiansen, said while the population trends in Sri Lanka were mainly positive, abortion is an area holding major concerns.

Abortion being illegal in Sri Lanka, hard data is unavailable. However according to a report released at this occasion, studies reveal that the majority of abortions were among married semi-urban and urban women of the ages of 25 to 39, with two or more children.

Monday, December 7, 2009

VAW: all forms and acts( verbal, non verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, social, cultural and political) which violate the rights to life...!!!!

Break the silence...

Sumana (her name has been changed to maintain confidentiality) who had been married for the past eight years was facing severe marital problems due to her husband’s addiction to drugs. In addition to this he also suspected her of having an extra marital affair and she was mercilessly beaten up on several occasions.

One day while she was washing clothes he threw a white substance at her from a bottle. She felt a burning liquid running down her neck to her chest. Little did she realize that he had thrown acid at her. She was rushed to the hospital by her neighbors where she was warded for three months where the doctors performed several skin grafts. Meanwhile, her husband who was taken into custody was granted bail within two weeks. After returning from the hospital Sumana decided to stay with her mother in Dambulla. Her husband came to her mother’s home and forcibly brought Sumana to Colombo and started battering her again...

Sumana is not alone...this is not the story of one woman....but of many like her, who suffer in silence

What is violence against women?

The scope of violence against women (VAW) includes all forms and acts whether verbal, non verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, social, cultural and political, which violate the right to life, liberty, dignity, equality and bodily integrity of women and girls.

Most women have become used to tolerating violence due to the prevailing social system within our country. They prefer to endure the violence and do not come forward to find ways and means to minimize it, as they believe that taking action could destroy the family foundation and would be deemed as being disloyal towards the family. However, this behaviour ironically erodes the strong foundation of the family unit, as it negatively affects a woman’s mental, physical well being and affects her relationship with her children and everyone else around her. There are quite a few instances where the acceptance of this behaviour results in irreparable physical damage or even death.

While the term "gender-based violence" includes violence against women and men, most of the victims are women. This is a reality, not only in Sri Lanka, but in many parts of the world. In Sri Lanka the most prevalent types of violence against women are rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, forced prostitution and trafficking. These crimes are not particular to a certain region, but are widespread and cut across class, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. In many cases these violations are hidden, this is especially true of domestic violence, which according to the UN Rapporteur on Violence against Women is reported to have been experienced by 60% of the Sri Lankan women (Wijayatilake, K., 2004, Study on Sexual and Gender Based Violence in selected locations in Sri Lanka, Colombo: CENWOR and UNHCR).

Official records reflect that the levels of violence against women has consistently risen, particularly over the past two decades. Whether this is due to increased reporting or to an increase in the crimes themselves has not been established, but it is probably a combination of the two factors. Service providers to survivors of domestic violence have alarmingly observed that the types of violence are becoming more brutal.

16 days activism against gender-based violence

The efforts of several agencies working together to end violence against women has enabled women to break the silence and access services and resources that could enable them to live a life free from violence. One such national effort, "the Forum against Gender-based Violence", was set up in 2005 in order to facilitate greater coordination, understanding and sharing of information and resources and strengthen multi-sectoral responses to GBV and includes local NGOs, International NGOs, UN agencies, donor agencies and Government representation. The Forum seeks to create public awareness and advocate on the issue of GBV specifically during the 16 days of Activism against gender-based Violence which begins on 25th November, the UN designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) and ends on 10th December which is International Human Rights Day. This year, the forum’s theme is : We CAN end violence against women: Commit – Act - Demand

The light at the end of the tunnel

An important step in the right direction was taken in 2005 when the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act was passed. The act provides victims with recourse to protection orders against those who mete out violence to them within the household. Recourse is also available to women within relationships to those who are married and to even children living at home. Other legislation such as the Penal code and the Torture Act also provide relief for women who face violence not only at home but within society including the workplace in the form of sexual harassment.

Women can seek free support and care from Women and Children’s desks that have been established at police stations across the island and from other service providers, such as Women in Need (WIN) and Women’s Development Centre (WDC). These organizations provide counselling, legal support and shelters for those experiencing domestic violence, or any form of violence. The bottom line however is that it is up to the individual to seek help for themselves.

Fortunately, Sumana’s story does end with hope. After deciding enough was enough, Sumana reached out to WIN to obtain relief for the constant abuse she was facing. She is at present living at the WIN shelter receiving counselling from the WIN counsellors. The WIN lawyers are also preparing papers under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to obtain a protection order from Court. Sumana now has hope of living a life free of violence and humiliation.

Violence against women can be reduced significantly if victims and society take a strong stand against it.

We CAN end violence against women: Commit – Act - Demand

24 Hour Helpline : 011 4718585

Kamani Jinadasa,

Facilitator- Forum against gender-based violence,


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Murderer Mohideen who killed Mary Welikala had been stabbed to death by a fellow prisoner five months back over an argument whilst he was in prison!

Passionate desire led him to gallows

Ananda JAYASENA Senior Supdt. of Police (Retd.)

From Wadduwa, I was transferred as OIC Aluthgama Police and took charge of the station from Inspector Carlyle Dias who after retirement from the Police was killed in a bomb in Jaffna, whilst he was working for a private organization.

I liked Aluthgama very much because it was only 38 miles to Colombo and 12 miles to my home at Ambalangoda.

Two friends of Aluthgama Police right-throughout were Bawa brothers, Bevis and Geoffrey. They visited the Police Station at least once a week and took OIC and his Sub-Inspector to their home for a chat and a beer.

On 12th February 1967, which was a Sunday and when I was at the Police Station, around 10.30 a.m. a case of a double murder was reported from a village close to Kalawila. The deceased had been the lady of the house and her maid servant.

The lady was Mary Welikala.

Beautiful lass
Mary Welikala, a very fair, beautiful lass of eighteen years had met a young planter Harold Jansz. He was 12 years older to her and the meeting had been at the Sacred Heart Church, Elpitiya. Both of them attended the 7.00 a.m. Sunday mass together. Harold had first thought that Mary herself was a Burgher. Time went by and after a long standing love affair they both said "I do" in the same Church ten months later.

Harold Jansz was a very hard working planter and rose fairly fast in his profession. At fifty he became the Visiting Agent for a group of tea estates in Badulla. With the passage of time Harold and Mary had two sons and a daughter. Both sons were employed abroad and were doing extremely well, and the only daughter Wilma was happily married to a planter named Ebert Kretser and lived in an estate at Maskeliya.

After retirement Harold bought two acres of land close to Major Bevis Bawa's "Brief", built a beautiful house, laid an equally lovely flower garden and both of them lived here very happily for over eight years.

Heart attack
At the age of sixty eight Harold Jansz suffered a massive heart attack one night and died before admission to a hospital.

Mary was now fifty six years of age. She was well off even after her husband's demise. She had plenty of free time and helped poor villagers, started a Montessori School free of charge for the small children in the village. She also helped the poor neighbours who needed help. Her daughter Wilma wanted the mother to come and stay with her, but she was reluctant. So Wilma sent her a nanny named Charlotte to be with her.

Charlotte was in her mid-thirties, a spinster and a buxom woman.

Mary was a methodical woman. She did everything to a plan. She got up at 5.30 a.m. daily and said her prayers for thirty minutes. Had her breakfast attended to her daily needs and left to the market with the maid in her car driven by her chauffer. She always bought things from traders known to her. After marketing she went to the beef stall, every other day and bought beef from a butcher named Mohideen.

Mohideen was a young, aged about 30 years strong and well built.

Lonely area
On receipt of this information of the double murder I left the Station on inquiry with Sgt. 4777 Ariyadasa.

This house was situated in a lonely area in the village and the closest house was about three hundred yards away and was of one Shelton Perera who was a widower.

The main door was found forced open Charlotte's body was in the second room which was said to be her's. The body was sprawled on the ground head turned to side. She was dressed in a plain skirt and a loose jacket. She had bled profusely. There were no marks of a disturbance in the room or on the bed. The body of Mary Welikala was in her bedroom. The bed had been disarranged indicating that there had been a struggle. The pillow had been fallen off the bed. There was a noticeable cut mark on her night dress on the centre of the chest. She too had bled profusely.

The culprit or culprits had entered the house by forced opening the main door.

Medical evidence
I kept Sgt. Ariyadasa at the scene and went and met my Magistrate in his residence at Kalutara North. I explained to him the nature of the double murder and requested of him to order Juridical Medical Officer, Colombo to hold the post-mortem examination on both bodies as a lot of this case will have to depend on medical evidence as there appears to be no eye witnesses.

Magistrate allowed this application and he directed Mr. Vernon Fernando J. P. U. M. to hold the on the spot inquest.

Same afternoon Mr.Fernando visited the scene and gave a verdict of "homicide" and told us to remove both dead bodies to the office of the JMO at Colombo for him to hold post-mortem examinations.

Same evening we dispatched both bodies to the General Hospital Morgue under Police escort.

By this time Registrar of Finger Prints visited the scene of murder in consequence to message given by me that day morning.

They dusted the entire place but there were no prints found in the room where Charlotte's body was found. But there were two prints found in Mary's room, a finger print and a palm print.

The palm print was on the electric torch used by Mary and the finger print was on a three quarter empty shampoo bottle which was in Mary's bathroom kept on the window still.

Both these objects were photographed by the CID Photographer.

Injuries fatal
Dr. Chandra Amarasekara Deputy JMO held the post-mortem examinations on both bodies. He stated in his report on Mary Welikala that she had been raped before her death.

With regards to Charlotte the AJMO indicated that there was no evidence of having had a sexual intercourse. Her private parts had been washed and cleaned.

A stab injury had been traced by the Doctor and the back of the chest and this had damaged the heart.

Injuries of both women would have been caused by one and the same weapon and both injuries were necessarily fatal.

Time went by. There was no information forthcoming in this double murder.

P.C. 229 Alwis who had served Aluthgama Police for five years had now gone on transfer to Maradana and had come to Aluthgama to attend one of his earlier cases, and he had met one Sirimal who had been an informant of his and Sirimal had told Alwis that butcher Mohideen was seen riding a pedal cycle on the night of this murder and when he questioned him he had told that Mohideen had gone to see some heads of cattle for slaughter.

He did not believe him as the time was just past mid-night, also Alwis told me that on the first or the second month of his arrival at Aluthgama Mohideen was convicted for a case of stabbing and was bound over for a period of six month by the Magistrate Kalutara.

I contacted the Office of the Registrar of Finger Prints and told them to compare the finger prints of Mohideen accused in M. C. Kalutara case No. 21691 convicted on 17/3/62, with the finger prints found at the scene of double murder at Aluthgama on 11th night of February 1967.

Identical prints
Two days later R. F. P. reported that finger prints of accused Mohideen was compared with the prints found at the scene of double murder on February 11th, and both prints are identical.

Accused Mohideen was arrested and he admitted having killed both women. Also he admitted that he hid the weapon of offence in his house amongst the coconut thatched leaves of the root.

According to Mohideen both the lady and the maid servant came to his stall every other day and he noticed that maid was giving him the glad eye. But he wanted to have sex with the lady of the house, and this was tormenting day by day. He also stated that he went to the house in question around 11.00 p.m. and the front door was locked.

He quietly broke opened it and entered the second room on the left. He found to his astonishment that it was Charlotte's room and she was fast a sleep. He put her up and she told him that lady sleep in the bedroom which was third from the right.

He had set with her came tip-toed to madam's room and found her reading a book. He went back to Charlotte's room and waited till she came out to the bathroom stabbed her once killed her and left the room. He entered Mary's room and on seeing him Mary raised cries. He went to the bed tried to stop her shouting by keeping his cupped hand on her mouth. In the meantime, her torch fell down.

He picked it up and kept on the bed. He had sexual intercourse forcibly with her twice and stabbed her too, to death.

When he went to her bathroom to wash he saw an expensive bottle of shampoo on the bathroom window sill. He wanted to give this to his wife and when he lifted it he saw a very little amount of shampoo hence he did not take it home.

Knife recovered
After recording his statement I went to his house with him and recovered the knife in consequence to the statement made by him.

On the following day I produced the accused in Magistrate's Court Kalutara and got him remanded to fiscal custody for 12 days and filed plaint against accused Mohammed Mohideen under Section 296 for committing a double murder.

After four months of non summery proceedings the Magistrate committed this case to be heard in Supreme Court.

In the latter part of 1968 this case came up for trial in Supreme Courts Kalutara before an English speaking Jury.

At the commencement of the trial the State Counsel explained to the Jury, Section 27 of evidence Ordinance where it says, any production recovered in consequence to a statement made by an accused is admissible in law if the police officer had not used force, threat or intimidation or no promises had been made.

The first witness to be called by the prosecution was Dr. Chandra Amarasekara Deputy J. M. O Colombo. His evidence was brief and to the point. He emphasized that the knife produced would have caused all three injuries on both Mary Jansz and Charlotte.

Accepted fact
The second witness to be called was Registrar of Finger printer. He stated that no two people in the world has identical finger prints and the finger print and the palm print found on the shampoo bottle and the torch respectively was of accused Mohammed Mohideen.

The Defence did not cross examine the R.F.P.

The third witness to be called was Sirimal. His evidence was very short.

The fourth witness to be called was yours truly. The Defence Counsel tried to excite me but I had put in about nine years of Police service and had sufficient maturity to face a cross examination.

The Defence tried to show Court that I had introduced the weapon of offence. At this stage Lordship the Judge asked the accused Counsel, in a lighter vein whether finger prints too were introduced.

The Defence did not call the accused to the witness box as if he gives evidence from the witness box he could be subjected to cross examination by the Prosecution, State Counsel.

At the conclusion of the trial the Jury brought the unanimous verdict of guilt and as the death sentence had been abolished the accused was sentenced to twenty years and fifteen years for murder and rape respectively.

After about ten years when I went to attend Kandy Courts I met Ebert Kretser in Kandy.

He recognized me and told that murder suspect Mohideen who killed Mary Welikala had been stabbed to death by a fellow prisoner five months back over an argument whilst he was still serving the sentence.

Names of the two deceased persons and the accused are fictitious.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Just how big is the issue of child abuse in Sri Lanka?

Let us stand up against child abuse

Yearning for protection and love. File photo

Just how big is the issue of child abuse in Sri Lanka? Obviously, a topic like this will always be in the shadows and one may have even look at the definition of ‘child abuse’ before giving an answer. But the figures are startling. According to the Head of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), reports of child abuse and infringements of child rights in Sri Lanka have tremendously increased in the past few years. Another recent report said that over 4000 cases are currently pending in courts for child abuse.

What does this mean? Does it mean that our moral structure is breaking down?

Let us face the reality. Authorities believe that child abuse may actually be more prevalent in Sri Lanka than in USA. There are valid reasons for this assumption. In Sri Lanka the child abuse is carefully hidden from outsiders by both abusers and victims. The victims are afraid to speak about their abuse because of the shame it will bring to them and their families, and therefore the abusers continue to get away scot-free.

At least in the Western world, victimized children today are more and more encouraged to speak out, and society is more apt to take their accusations at face value rather than automatically condemn such victims. This action is opposed to the situation in our country where family tradition is more prominent, and the words of children more often ignored.

For instance, I know of one Sri Lankan woman born over forty years ago into a very highly-respected family. In our discussions about child abuse, she told me that she had been a victim of abuse; she had been sexually molested as a child by a close relation of the family.

This was not something that she casually revealed to me; it was a terrible secret between her and her abusers which gave her great pain and torment, even 30 years after the event had ended. She knew she wouldn’t be believed by her parents or elders if she revealed what happened. And this woman was not born into a poor family; no, her family members were university-educated high-society people who became quite prominent and influential.

When we talk about child abuse, generally we mean physical and sexual abuse. We forget about emotional abuse, which is the cruelest and most destructive of all types of abuse. It means, ridiculing and verbally abusing a child, ignoring a child’s emotional needs or isolating a child from the family.

Government Action
These abuses generally do not end up at courts but the child grows up with an inferior complex or destructive tendencies or with mental disorder. Recent research has found that more children suffer from emotional abuse than from physical and sexual abuse combined.

What have successive Governments done about the child abuse? Two decades ago, we ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols. 36 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is children under 18 years of age. 20 percent of the population is of school going age.

Thanks to the free education policies from the primary to university levels, we have a literacy rate of 93 percent comparable with developed countries.

Today, we are already on par with the MDG’s for primary education, school gender parity and reproductive health services. Yes, we can be happy of our progress.

The Government has implemented many programs to combat abuse of children. For example, the Children and Young Persons Ordinance create offenses and imposes heavy penalties for exploitation of children for pornography, sexual exploitation, begging and trafficking. The Penal Code has been amended to provide for enhanced punishments in respect of offences involving sexual exploitation of children. A strict legal procedure exists to protect children’s rights upon adoption.

Sri Lanka as a State party to the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoptions has put in place the necessary substantive and procedural safeguards to prevent any abuse of the process.

Our criminal justice system is geared towards the rehabilitation of child offenders. The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) was established a decade ago to serve as the apex body that focus attention and provide institutional leadership to the efforts on preventing child abuse, prosecuting offenders, fostering national awareness of children’s rights and providing advice to the government and in assisting victims of abuse.

We have also strengthened our laws in child trafficking by electronic media, in accordance of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.

So, what went wrong? Why is child abuse increasing?

Although, there are lawyers and child rights activists who are ready to spell, explain, and act against child abuse, they are still not a critical mass and their views are not strong enough to be able to impact consciousness of the policymakers, police, lawyers, judges, teachers, schools, mental, physical and sexual health professionals, and all those who could take up the issue.

Although the issues of shame, family honour and plain depravity mean that not enough statistics are available, it also means that every statistic available speaks not just for itself but for a lot many others in the shadows. Eventually the children who are invisible will, because of the abuse and betrayal they have faced, retreat further into the darkness and possibly out of reach of help.

Apart from the legal dimension, child abuse also has pronouncedly psychological and emotional elements. Worldwide surveys point out that such abuse negatively impacts a child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being, leading to severe behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Suicidal tendencies and drug abuse are common long-term effects.

A World Health Organization survey also points out that there is an unambiguous behavioral and emotional pattern in the abused. Usually the child hardly talks about the incident. And, even if he or she does, no one takes it seriously. That in turn triggers feelings of self doubt and guilt, worsening the child’s feeling that it is his or her fault. As the child matures, compulsive behavior reinforces this guilt.

So, where does the solution lie? If we first talk about the physical child abuse, most sociology experts advocate of a total ban on physical punishment against all forms of punishing children. In fact, the use of any kind of force against children as a disciplinary measure is illegal in 24 countries around the world.

Until such time the Government makes a decision, I believe that, NCPA with the cooperation of law enforcement and other government agencies should implement firm protocols that commit those agencies to activate four important functions.

First, to conduct prompt and thorough investigations of child physical abuse, endangerment and neglect cases, secondly, to reduce trauma to victimized, thirdly, to cooperate effectively to prosecute and prevent physical abuse and neglect to the children and finally, to train the staff on scientific investigation of child physical abuse. These actions will definitely help.

On the subject of sexual abuse, educating and enlightening children about such issues, helping them distinguish between “good” and “bad” touch is a partial answer. Children also ought to be made aware of impulsive decisions they may make under pressure from peers, bullies and abusers. Sex education in schools is also productive.

The Netherlands, a country where teenage pregnancy rates plummeted from 60 per cent to about 25 per cent through aggressive sex information campaigns in schools, is an example. In our country, I remember how a nationwide furor resulted after somebody’s suggestion to introduce sex education in schools.

The subject has divided opinion between camps who felt such a step would lead to unnecessary experimentation by curious teenagers and others who believed it would help whittle down cases of sexual abuse by creating widespread awareness.

We also have to talk about emotional abuse of children. At some time, most parents or teachers, find themselves feeling frustrated and angry with children. This is normal. Occasionally they say things they regret - to the children.

This, too, is normal. But if they find that they are routinely having angry outbursts or that whenever they are frustrated they lash out at those around them in abusive ways - then they need professional help. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

The family Doctor, psychotherapist, or mental health professional will suggest some ways to begin helping calm down.

Child abuse is attracting so much scrutiny and public debate today. It is time the government begin to adopt strong and unequivocal measures to contain these heinous crimes. For a country with over a third of its populace consisting of children, such measures are long overdue.

Cooking in aluminum utensils is one of the main reasons for the increase in kidney patients...!!!

Use clay pots to prevent kidney ailments

Cooking in aluminum utensils is one the main reasons for the increase in kidney patients in the North Central Province, the Information Department website said, quoting the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine.
The Ministry has warned NCP residents to refrain from using aluminum utensils and instead to use clay pots which are to be provided to them from Ministry funds.

At present some 10,000 kidney patients seek treatment at government hospitals.

Meanwhile the government has allocated Rs.2.5 million to carry out research on kidney ailments and 151 ayurvedic specialists have been assigned the task of treating serious kidney patients.