The entire country last week continued to mourn the death of Vithya Sivaloganathan who was allegedly gang raped and then brutally murdered in Kayts in the Jaffna Peninsula. This incident shook the country and with that came the wake where protests emerged in many parts of the North breaking the silence. In solidarity with Vithya’s family and the North, a vigil was held last Tuesday at the Kanatta Roundabout in Borella with the participation of many individuals, university students, academia and members of civil society organizations. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, some individuals, civil society members and ministers who took part in the vigil expressed their deepest sympathies and condolences to Vithya’s family, condemned the crime and reiterated the need to bring law reforms to expedite hearing cases of this nature and bringing perpetrators to justice without delay.
By Waruni Karunarathne
I would like to say to our President to bring some law and order to this country to put an end to the culture of impunity.
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A woman at the vigil
With regard to what has happened, the nature of the crime is unimaginable. People have had enough. Enough is enough! We need more people supporting this campaign to stop violence against women. We are mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. This is a crime committed against all of us – all of us are affected. We all should respond.
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I think women have to take their role very seriously and teach their sons to treat women with more respect.
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A Catholic Sister from Amandoluwa, Seeduwa
I came here today to participate in this event because it’s important to break the silence against rape and violence. We all wish for a future where no woman or a child in this country is raped or harassed. It is a sin. Women and girls in this country do not get to enjoy the freedom. Everybody seems to look at this issue as something ordinary but what we are facing today is such a grave situation. For some sets of men in this society, women and girls have become objects or a plaything. I wish such violence will be completely eradicated from the face of this earth.
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Frank – a male protester
This kind of incidents have become very common. It is not a new phenomenon that we are dealing with but the issue is that these incidents have been alarmingly increasing. What is more worrying is that the law does not seem to be enforced against those who commit crimes of this nature. At least now let’s hope that the country will respond to crimes of this nature and amend the laws to take immediate action against perpetrators. I want media to support in this campaign to put an end to violence against women without just looking at these incidents with a news angle.
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Nalini Jayatilake – a lawyer
Victim representation is a must. When I say victim representation I mean from the point where the word goes, victim should be represented. The child or the woman when taken to the hospital or to the police station, a lawyer needs to be there – the area lawyers need to agree that they will have a pool of lawyers who will come immediately when something like this happens. If that happens then the victim is represented and the victim and their families are not helpless. Their rights will be protected. Here, at present circumstances, always the perpetrators rights are protected. That really bugs me.
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This unprecedented get together by all the communities is to show the solidarity and support that there should be an immediate investigation and the culprits should be punished without delay. The girl Vithyasuffered and died in a brutal manner. I want those perpetrators to feel the same pain. I have been watching this development during the last few days. I was really sad to hear about this incident. The parents surely feel this much worse. My sympathies are with the parents.
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Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu – Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
This is the second event in solidarity that I have been to – and it is great to see that so many people are coming up from close communities from across gender. Civil society seems to have been activated in a very important issue. I think those who in position of authority need to be keen and ensure that they put their best efforts to prevent this kind of horrendous crimes from happening in the future. * * *
Amir Faaiz – A lawyer
This whole incident is gruesome. It shocked the conscience that this kind of things are happening. The awareness that was created in the North has virtually shaken the conscience of the rest of the country which is something good. But the incident per say is pretty bad. It is so sad that it has gone unaddressed or has not received the attention it deserves. This is a good start to create some awareness. It’s also good to see couple of legislators amongst us – and let’s see if this sets tone for law reforms as well as much needed awareness with regard to law and order enforcement.
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The rape culture in this country, which started especially during the last 10 years, has to stop immediately. All those – not only those who are guilty of rape but also those who are indirectly supporting any person who has committed rape, should be brought to book and justice with immediate effect. I see a spontaneous response by the people in this demonstration which is against the culture of rape – and heartened by the response and support that had been given by people to gather here at the Kanatta roundabout.
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Rosy Senanayake, Minister of Childrens’ Affairs
Today we are all here, gathered together – the civil society organizations and the general public to stand in one accord because a daughter of this nation is brutally raped and murdered. This has been happening in the past in the south as well. It is time for us to stop this. Look at the Kahawatta incident, Thangalla and Akuressa incidents, we cannot be happy about the situation. When looking at Vindya’s case, she was brutally murdered and it gives us the shivers. To put a stop to this, laws need to be enforced. The President visited Jaffna and made a statement saying that even if he has to go through a especial court, he will make sure that Vindya’s family will have justice on this whole issue. There have been many reported case in a short spam of time such as four to five years – grave and minor incidents against children have been 32,259 – grave and minor incidents reported against women have been 39,604 – but how many perpetrators are behind bars today? Have they been taken to task and has the justice prevailed? Only 713 perpetrators on these cases have been brought to justice. There is a laps when it comes to justice.
Today, I believe with good governance justice prevails. Because as soon as this incident took place, general public were able to raise their voice in the North. In the past we did not hear that voice. These incidents have been happening – not so much murder but rape has been happening. Many have not been reported. Today, there is a voice. People can stand up. It came to the notice of the Prime Minister. He directed Minister John Amaratunga to look into it and the Inspector General of Police was deployed to Jaffna immediately within 24 hours. The head of the police division OIC was transferred from Jaffna. That shows that we are very prompt in taking action. Yet this is not going to end this. General public has to stand up together.
My ministry together with UNICEF launched a campaign to say no to violence and we held a vigil last Sunday. At the vigil people started putting their thumb print and sign their names. This will be an island wide progarmme where people should be sensitized on these issues because a lot of them do not realize the numbers and the gravity of this issue and a lot of people think that it happens to the next door neighbour’s child but not to them. We grieve for the moment but then it’s forgotten. This dialogue should continue till we see an end to this. I hope after Vithyawe will never see or hear such a brutal crime of this nature.
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Eran Wickramaratne, Deputy Minister of Highways and Investment Promotion
It is unthinkable that in a civilized society, a young school girl could be gang raped. Sri Lankans pride ourselves thinking ourselves as very advanced and civilized – and it’s shocking that such a thing like a gang rape could happen. She is not just a woman but also a child. Protecting women and children is one of the highest ideals in a civilized society and everything must be done by the government institutions in acting swiftly in bringing perpetrators to justice – but also the public must act because these crimes are committed by the public.
One heartening thing is that what has happened out of very dark and sad mournful situation is that people all over the country are reacting to this gang rape and voicing their protest. As legislators, we have to look and relook as how people can be brought swiftly to justice and if it requires amendments in the law or administrative arrangements, which certainly have to be looked at.