• UK Judge: Collapse of Sex Crime Trials could Lead to Rapists going Free

    The notable collapse of a series of rape trials could endanger future convictions of genuine rapists because of reduced public trust in the justice system, the former head of the judiciary has warned.

    Lord Judge, who was lord chief justice in England and Wales from 2008 to 2013, said juries may start doubting the quality of evidence presented to them in court after several high-profile rape cases collapsed owing to blunders by police and the CPS.

    The comments to the Times were made after a rape case against Oliver Mears, a 19-year-old student at Oxford University, was dropped on Friday after police accepted making errors during the investigation.

    “The recent examples in cases involving alleged sexual crime are alarming, both for all the individuals concerned and for public confidence in the administration of criminal justice generally,” Judge told the newspaper.

    “It is at least possible that from time to time juries, alarmed as everyone else by these cases, may wonder, even in an apparently strong case, whether they have been provided with all the admissible evidence.

    “These events may reduce the prospects of conviction even when the allegation is genuine.”

    On Friday, Surrey police announced a full review of all ongoing rape cases, admitting that errors had been made in the Mears case.

    “We accept that there were flaws in the initial investigation. It was not expedient and the investigator did not examine the victim’s digital media during the initial stages of the investigation or follow what we would consider to be a reasonable line of enquiry,” the force said in a statement.

    A review of the case produced evidence that supported the Oxford student’s account, causing prosecutors to drop the case.

    Mears spent two years on bail before the CPS decided to charge him in June 2017, prompting criticism from the judge, Jonathan Black.

    The case is one of many that has collapsed in recent weeks due to errors from the CPS and the police.

    On Monday a rape trial against Samson Makele was halted after his defence found mobile phone images showing him apparently cuddling in bed with his accuser.

    In December last year, the Metropolitan police announced a review of all sexual assault investigations after two rape cases were dropped against Isaac Itiary and Liam Allen.

    The Guardian  20 Jan 2018






  • Gang Raped Teenager Commits Suicide

    A 14-year-old girl who had been gang-raped by three young men committed suicide a day later. In the suicide note she left behind she d had named the men and blamed herself asking for forgiveness from her family and friends if she had done anything wrong.
    Rape and violence against women are reaching epidemic proportions in this country. Anecdotal evidence says that there is a rape every four hours; that three children are raped every three days and so on.
    According to Police statistics 2012 girls and women had been raped in 2016. Two hundred and forty eight (248) plaints have been filed, there have been no convictions while 2007 investigations were pending.

  • Sri Lankan Women too Scared to Seek Legal Post Abortion Care

    Abortion is illegal in almost all cases in Sri Lanka, but it’s perfectly legal for women to seek help after complications from backstreet abortions. Still, the fear of stigma and discrimination prevents many from coming forward.

    Abortion is illegal in almost all cases in Sri Lanka, but it’s perfectly legal for women to seek help after complications from backstreet abortions. Still, the fear of stigma and discrimination prevents many from coming forward.

    Post Abortion Care

    In 2015, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health issued new guidelines on comprehensive post-abortion care for healthcare workers. The guidelines stipulate that any woman who undergoes an illegal abortion can seek medical care for complications, if needed, at any government facility without fearing prosecution. The guidelines also allow selected government hospitals to use misoprostol for incomplete abortions.

    “When women used to come to the hospital after an abortion, we used to have to inform the police, and then the police would come and threaten patients and demand bribes,” a gynecologist in Jaffna, who wanted to remain anonymous, told News Deeply.

    “We never report cases to the police [now] but women don’t know they can come [here] without fear.”

    In addition to providing medical services, post-abortion care covers the provision of counseling, education and family planning services to help women prevent future unwanted pregnancies.

    There are no official figures on the number of illegal abortions that take place every year in Sri Lanka, but estimates suggest that up to 650 are carried out every day.

    Dr Kapila Jayaratne, national program manager for maternal and child morbidity and mortality surveillance at the Family Health Bureau, said deaths from unsafe abortions had significantly declined since the introduction of abortion drugs, which began to be smuggled into Sri Lanka from India and Bangladesh in 2008.

    Previously, coat hangers, bicycle parts or papaya leaves were the most common methods of unsafe abortions, which can often lead to sepsis and death.

    Yet, while the tablets are available on the black market, many women aren’t given accurate information about how to take them, which can lead to complications.

    Liberalizing Abortion Laws in Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka has one of South Asia’s strictest abortion laws: The procedure is only allowed to save the woman’s life. However, in August this year, the cabinet approved a draft bill allowing abortion under two circumstances: When the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal congenital malformation or when the pregnancy is the result of rape.

    The bill still needs to be approved by parliament, and experts don’t know when – or if – that will happen.

    Public health experts, doctors and activists have welcomed the proposed amendment that has been a long time in the making. However, it has been met with fierce opposition, primarily from religious bodies.

    “The proposal to amend the law dates back to 2010 when we were lobbying the government to reduce deaths from unsafe abortion and legalize full abortion, but nothing happened,” said Dr. Sanath Lanerolle, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Castle St Hospital for Women in Colombo.

    “The Catholic Church controls politics. This is in the hands of politicians, not doctors. I see a lot of pregnancies from rape. The amendment would change the quality of women’s lives drastically.”

    If the amendment is approved, it means that women like Pabita could legally seek an abortion.

    The gynecologist in Jaffna said he was so disillusioned by Sri Lanka’s strict abortion laws that he was performing surgical abortions and giving out medical abortion tablets to those in need.

    “I’m taking justice into my hands,” he said

    He said that one out of four pregnant women who come to see him ask for an abortion. He doesn’t perform them in every case; he tries to counsel some women to keep the baby. But in cases of rape, incest, pregnant teenagers, women who have numerous children or those can’t afford to raise another child, he will often agree to their requests.

    “I consider termination for the benefit of the patient. We need to let women have the right to decide what they want to do,” he said.

  • Why are Sri Lankan Employers Reluctant to Recruit Females?

    According to the Labour Demand Survey – 2017 of the Department of Census and Statistics, employers in the private sector fight shy of recruiting females because of their family commitments, lack of dedication, absenteeism, maternity leave and relaxation of working hours, lack of required vocational/ professional qualifications, inability or reluctance to face challenges, higher labour turnover, security issues and work location, in that order.


  • Gender in the Global Research Landscape

    A report on the analysis of research performance through a gender lens across 20 years, 27 geographies, and 27 subject areas prepared by Elsevier  

    Key findings of the study are: the proportion of women among researchers and inventors is increasing in all twelve comparator counties and researchers over time:  Women publish fewer research papers on average than men, but there is no evidence that this affects how their papers are cited or downloaded. Women are less likely than men to collaborate internationally on research papers.  Women are slightly less likely than men to collaborate across the academic and corporate sectors on research papers. In general, women’s scholarly output includes a slightly larger proportion of highly interdisciplinary research than men’s. Among researchers, women are generally less internationally mobile than men. Gender research is growing in terms of size and complexity, with new topics emerging over time. The former dominance of the United States in gender research has declined as research activity in the European Union has risen.


  • School Teacher Wins Case against School Principal for Sexual Harassment

    A sexual harassment application filed by a female teacher in the supreme Court in 2012 against the principal and other 11 other respondents under Article 12 and 126 of the Constitution was found in favour of the petitioner. The harassment had occurred since 2007/

    The two of the respondents – the principal and a male teacher from the school were ordered to pay compensation.

  • Encountering SDGs and Climate Change Challenges – Roundtable for Women Professionals


    The Centre for Women’s Research, Sri Lanka Water Partnership, NetWwater, and the National Committee on Women will hold a Roundtable for Women Water Professionals- Encountering SDGs and Climate Change Challenges,  on the 22nd of December 2017 at the Centre for Women’s Research, Colombo 5, from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm.

    The purpose of this activity is to identify critical future challenges in relation to SDGs and possible points of intervention into the proposed Gender Action Plan of the Climate Change Secretariat, the focal point of the United Nations Framework on Climate change (UNFCC) , with a group of selected women’s organizations and women water professionals (especially mid level women water professionals) from different disciplines.



    The UNDP’s annual campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender based Violence, starts on the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on the 10th of December, the Human Rights Day.

    The National Forum against Gender based Violence started its public campaign under the theme Elect Her. End Violence, as the very low political representation of women in Sri Lanka, is in part attributed to violence.

  • Twenty Five Percent Quota for Women at Local Government

    The recently passed Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act, No. 1 of 2016, introduced a 25% mandatory quota for women. Representation of women in Sri Lankan political structures is the lowest in South Asia.  They had only 4% of seats in Provincial Councils and 1.9% in local government. In 2017 the Inter Parliamentary Union ranking of women in Parliament, Sri Lanka was placed 180 out of 190 countries.

    The new amendment has increased the number of seats at local level by 25% from 6,619 to 8,825.  This is the increase that will be available for women candidates nominated by political parties on a separate list according to the proportion of votes obtained by each party at the local council elections. Seats will be allocated according to the order of priority on this list as decided by the party.  The number of women will increase dramatically from the present 90  to over 2,000. Although there are limitations such as the status quo or incumbency of male politicians, the dichotomy between women’s seats and general seats, and power to the political party has over the selections, this is just a beginning towards women’s equal representation.

  • The Wounded Victims of Sri Lanka’s Marriage Law

    In Sri Lanka the legal marriage age is 18, but under a decades-old community law, much younger Muslim girls can get married. As calls grow for this law to be amended, BBC Sinhala’s Saroj Pathirana meets one young girl forced to marry against her will.

    When Shafa* was 15, she was forced to get married. “While studying for exams, I fell in love with a boy,” Shafa said, tears running down her cheeks.

    “My parents did not like it. They sent me to my uncle’s place. While I was studying there, a regular visitor told my aunt and uncle that he wanted to marry me.”

    Shafa, who comes from a Muslim family and lives in a remote village in Sri Lanka, refused. She wanted to marry the boy she loved, after completing her secondary school education.

    But despite her objections, her uncle and aunt arranged for her to marry their friend.

    Whenever she objected to the marriage, she was beaten. Her uncle and aunt even threatened to kill themselves if she did not listen to them.

    “I cut my arms as there was no other option,” said Shafa, pulling up her sleeves to show the scars. “I also took some pills from my uncle’s place.

    “While I was being treated in hospital, they bribed the doctors and took me – together with my saline bottle – to a private hospital. A few days later they forced me to marry that man.” Shafa decided to stay with her young husband as she could see no escape but he suspected she was continuing her relationship with her boyfriend.

    “He regularly beat me,” she said. “When I told him that I was pregnant, he picked me up and threw me to the floor.

    “He then told me that he only wanted me for the one night, he’d already had me and didn’t need me any more.”

    It was at the hospital that she realised she had lost her baby as a result of the violence.

    When Shafa went to the police, they did not take her complaint seriously.

    One day she got a call from the mosque in the village. There, her husband agreed to continue the marriage but she refused.

    A few days later, she started getting phone calls and text messages from strangers, asking how much she charged to sleep with them.

    Shafa realised that her husband had published her photograph and telephone number on social media. The callers threatened her with filthy language and told her: “We got your number from your husband.”

    “I recorded all these calls. And I still have all the text messages,” said Shafa, who could not stop crying but was determined to tell her story.

    Shafa’s father did not want to get involved with what was happening.

    But Shafa’s mother is now taking her daughter to a social welfare centre so she can get psychological and legal help in the wake of her traumatic marriage.

    They visit the centre in secret because openly seeking psychological help is still a taboo in Sri Lanka.

    Shafa’s mother supports her five children by doing daily labour jobs in the village. She was evicted from her hometown by Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in 1990.

    “I sent my daughter to my brother’s place due to one incident. I never thought this would happen to her,” she said.

    She says she objected to her daughter being forced to marry but her brother did not listen to her.

    “It was a forced marriage,” she said. “I fear for her safety and her education now [because of the lies her husband has spread about her]. She can’t go to classes. She can’t even travel on a bus. Her whole future is uncertain.”

    Every year, hundreds of girls like Shafa from Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority are forced to get married by their parents or guardians.

    Human rights lawyer Ermiza Tegal says Muslim child marriages have gone up from 14% to 22% within a year in the eastern province, a rise attributed to increased conservatism.

    Shafa was 15 years old but Muslim women’s groups have documented girls as young as 12 being forced into marriage.

    Sri Lanka’s common law does not allow underage marriages. The legal age is 18. But a decades-old community law called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) allows Muslim community leaders, who are mostly men, to decide the marriage age.

    There is no minimum age, although a marriage involving a girl under 12 requires special permission from an Islamic magistrate.

    Girls and their mothers have suffered in silence for decades but Muslim women activists are now coming forward to seek reform of the MMDA, despite serious threats from mullahs and other conservative community leaders.

    Child marriage: the facts

    • One in three women in the developing world are married before they reach the age of 18
    • The nations with the highest rates of child marriage are Niger (76%), Central African Republic (68%) and Chad (68%)
    • As a region, South Asia has the highest rate of child marriage – 17% of women are married by the age of 15 and 45% by the age of 18
    • Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage in the region (52%), followed by India (47%), Nepal (37%) and Afghanistan (33%)
    • In Sri Lanka child marriage rates are at 2% by 15 and 12% by 18
    • Globally all but six countries specify minimum marriage ages – but many make exceptions on religious or other grounds, and in some nations laws are ignored

    Sources: Girls Not Brides; Pew Research Centre

    Sri Lanka plans to reform its constitution and so activists believe now is the moment to act.

    The United Nations and the EU have also recently urged the government to amend the MMDA and other discriminatory laws.

    But there is not a lot of hope, because a committee set up by the government nearly 10 years ago to look into MMDA reform failed to come up with any concrete proposals.

    Muslim groups such as Jamiyathul Ulama and Thawheed Jamaath have long resisted the call for change.

    Thawheed Jamaath treasurer BM Arshad said the organisation supported reforming the MMDA as long as proposals came from within the community, but it opposed setting a minimum marriage age.

    “Neither Islam nor Thawheed Jamaath accept child marriages,” said Mr Arshad. “But Thawheed Jamaath will never agree to setting a minimum age for marriage.

    “The need for the girl to get married should be the criteria for a marriage,” he said. “Some girls may not need to get married even after 18 years of age. It is the right of the person getting married to decide when they do.”

    He denied accusations that his organisation threatens Muslim women activists.
    The centre Shafa and her mother attend has helped more than 3,000 Muslim women with various issues over the last three years, including 250 child marriage victims.

    “I have to stay away from home because of the threats from men,” said the social worker who runs the centre. “I’m afraid to send my children to school.

    “I have had to stay in my office and now I’m even afraid to take a tuk tuk home.”

    Activist Shreen Abdul Saroor of the Women’s Action Network (WAN) was one of the few Muslim women who dared to reveal her face and her identity.

    “Child marriage is statutory rape,” she said. She insists that 18 years should be the legal marriage age for all communities in Sri Lanka, irrespective of their nationality or religion.

    A child is not physically mature enough to give birth to another child and they miss out on their education, she says.

    “When we look at these children getting married, it affects the whole community. The whole community goes backward,” said Ms Saroor.

    “My message to the Muslim community and religious leaders is please do not destroy the childhood of these children.”

    Despite her trauma, Shafa was always a brilliant student and was determined to resume her studies. Her family hope she can get a good job but she still faces many challenges.

    “Boys regularly come to me and make rude jokes when I go to tuition classes,” she says. “This is serious harassment. I feel down. I’m helpless. I don’t know what to do.”

    But she refuses to let the bullies win, saying she wants to be a lawyer.

    “Is it because you want to help other victims like you?” I asked. “Yes,” she said.

    As her smiling eyes meet mine, I sense her determination.

    *Shafa’s name has been changed to protect her privacy


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