You are here

Home » News and Views » SRI LANKA: An Appeal to the women’s movement against inhuman treatment of a young woman on religious grounds

SRI LANKA: An Appeal to the women’s movement against inhuman treatment of a young woman on religious grounds

Publication Date: 
August 11, 2010

 

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

SRI LANKA: An Appeal to the women’s movement against inhuman treatment of a young woman on religious grounds

This is a narrative of the husband of the victim, a 17 year old woman with a two month old child, who was subjected to the horrible experience of being beaten about 100 times with the hard centre stem from a coconut frond in the presence of the committee members of the mosque situated in Gokarella in the district of Kurunagalle. This woman had given a birth to a child as a result of an extra marital relationship. She has since married and has been living peacefully. One day the husband of the woman was asked to come to the mosque with his wife by the committee members. He was forced by them to sign a document consenting to the punishment of his wife. The man did not agree and argued against the punishment. He also pointed out that his wife was sick. Regardless, she was beaten in the presence of other men of the village in front of the mosque.

Sri Lanka has been a multi cultural, multi linguistic secular society for a thousand years. Emerging social trends shows the tendencies of more extreme forms of horrible social practices which are threatening the inherent civil political rights and individual liberties. Many societies in Asia and Africa struggle with these most horrible forms of extreme practices of human suffering in the name of religion like the adoption of Sharia law or implementation of the decisions of Jirgas. The following story is an eye opener to what is happen is happening in Sri Lankan society.
<--break->

The story narrated by the victim's husband:

The leader of the Munduwa mosque in Pilassa in Ibbagamuwa called and asked me to go to the mosque. I answered him that I could not go at that time. Then he asked me again and told me that my wife had to receive a punishment. He did not listen to my explanation and repeatedly told me that when an offence takes place we have to take the punishment also. Then I further explained to him that although an offence had happened there was no need to impose the punishment at that time because my wife was not well. I told the caller that we would come after she recovered. Then he told me that a woman was coming to our home at that moment to take us to the mosque. As I had no other option I took my wife to the mosque. However, even at that time my goal was only to present ourselves there but not to get the punishment.

When we arrived at the mosque I told them that my wife could not receive the punishment as she was not well. I met the leader of the mosque personally as well and told him the same. However, all of the people present insisted that we should not delay the punishment. They told us that illness was not an excuse to avoid punishment. At that particular moment there was no other women in the mosque compound. Other than the leader and the committee members there were only my wife, her brother and I. They insistently told us we have to follow their directions and that they were not ready to listen to our grievances. Then they forced us to sign for a letter prepared by them by saying that if we refused I would be assaulted and killed. As we were scared we signed the letter which stated that we voluntarily agreed to the punishment. Due to the harassment and threat we signed the document. At the time it was 10:30 pm, we felt isolated and extremely vulnerable.

Just after signing the document one person named Dilkee slapped my wife heavily. After that an announcement was made over the mosque speakers that all of the men in the village should come to the mosque.

My wife was made to lie face down on a mat in front of the mosque. Then as all the men of the village stood around her she was beaten on her back with the hard centre stem of a coconut frond. She received about 100 strokes.

I pleaded with them not to beat as she was ill. She was screaming continuously but none of them listened. We were subjected to this extreme form of shame. While she was being beating the men verbally abused her with filthy language.

We were disgusted with their treatment. They did not consider that we are going to live in this same village. They never considered that I have pardoned her and accepted her to live in a most peaceful and cultured family. They did not pay attention to the fact that we have done nothing disgraceful to them and we have taken all our efforts to protect the name of their village. I think they were angry at the family members of my wife. I think they wanted to make them shameful. Her family was no longer able to live among the community with respect. I think they may have decided to punish her as I married her instead of isolating her.

Finally the men started to leave the mosque. As they left they all beat her again as they passed. We cannot bear this as we have to live in this village. This is no longer possible now that we have been subjected to this kind of horrible experience in public. I have respected the law of the country and follow the customary laws, respected the religious practices. I am open to apologize for any kind of mistake if I have committed one. However, if I had known that my wife was to be subjected to this horrible punishment we would never have gone there.

I have heard since that there was no need to impose this kind of punishment even for the people who have committed crimes. According to the Islamic practice of Sri Lanka I know that there are certain kinds of communal practices and behavioral practices. When someone is found in breach of these practices they have to go the mosque and confess it verbally and receive a verbal punishment. They can receive it from the mosque they belong to or in another. When we are given punishment at another mosque we have to produce a letter to the mosque we belong to.

After that we returned home. My wife suffered lot of pain due to the beating. She developed an unusual hemorrhage in the early morning between 12 to 1am. Then I was helpless as there were no transport facilities available to take her to hospital. We had to wait until the morning and I brought her to the government hospital of Mawathagama where the doctors admitted her for treatment. Then I went to the Mawathagama Police Station to make a complaint. First the police officers on duty asked the location of the incident. I explained to them that it happened in front of the mosque at Ibbagamuwa. Then they informed me as the location belonged to the police division of Gokarella I had to go to that particular police station. Then after I explained that my wife was admitted to the Mawathagama hospital they decided to record my complaint. They further informed me that I had to take my wife for a further statement to the police station.

When my wife was discharged from the hospital a few days later I brought her to the police station. But the officers on duty directed me to go to the Gokarella police station with my wife. They informed me that they were posting my first complaint also to the police station of Gokarella. Then I went to that police station. Again I had to explain the whole story to the officers there. Women police constables at the station also examined my wife's body for signs of the injuries.

Although we remained there for more than two hours they did not record my wife's statement. They informed us that they need to have the instructions of the Inspector of the police station. Due to the continued pain that my wife was suffering we had to return home.

Finally we have suffered a lot and we are no longer able to face our community. This shame will remain even against our children. I have decided to seek justice against this illegality.

The statement in Sinhala of the husband and a commentary from a human rights group can be heard at: http://material.ahrchk.net/audio/AHRC-AUD-002-2010-SriLanka.mp3

Source: Asian Human Rights Commission

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Tags

Forms of Violence: 
Country: