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Saturday, 1 January, 2005

Sri Lanka: Women’s Groups appeal for an inclusive framework for disaster response

A Press Release issued in Colombo today by a collection of Sri Lankan Women's Groups.

A collective of women’s rights groups who have conducted a series of fact-finding missions in the tsunami-affected areas over the past week wishes to bring to public attention serious issues concerning the safety and wellbeing of women which have not been addressed so far in relief efforts.

We appreciate the many public initiatives to collect and deliver relief and assist those affected by the tsunami in whatever ways are possible. However, our observations indicate that these efforts need to be refocused to ensure that those who have suffered as a consequence of the tsunami are not subjected to further
violence and abuse by unscrupulous persons.

The heightened vulnerability of people in these areas due to the destruction of communication lines and the large-scale mass displacement and death of people has created situations in which women and girls become more likely to encounter violence.

In particular, we have received reports of incidents of rape, gang rape, molestation, and physical abuse of women and girls in the course of unsupervised rescue operations and while resident in temporary shelters, particularly in the south. Apart from these incidents (the number of which is not known), these reports have also indicated that women’s mobility continues to be restricted due to the fear of sexual violence. No proper monitoring body has been set up to receive complaints, to take action against perpetrators, or to ensure the safety of women in these areas.

We urge government authorities, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, in particular, to take note of these violations, and to take immediate measures to investigate such incidents. We also urge collaboration between state institutions and agencies such as UNHCR, OXFAM and other agencies working on gender-based violence in this matter. Provision of adequate security and establishing complaints mechanisms should be an urgent priority in the relief process.

We are also concerned that the information flowing from the Tsunami-hit areas does not provide detailed accounts of the numbers of specific vulnerable communities such as pregnant women, lactating mothers, persons with physical and mental disabilities, persons with special medical needs and requiring daily and consistent medication. The collection of such data is absolutely critical for identifying priority needs in the days to come.

The lack of a system that could identify children separated from their families has also hampered efforts to locate families missing children or to resettle children with relatives in the locations where they were found. We strongly urge the National Child Protection Authority to coordinate with the Department of Probation and Childcare Services to set up a mechanism to address this problem. As an initial step, measures may be taken to register these children temporarily with Probation officers and police stations

The inadequate structures of coordination within the government bureaucracy at the level of Kachcheris and Divisional Secretariats is also a matter of grave concern. In view of the fact that government officers in local administration who were resident in the areas have also suffered personal loss during this time, it is imperative that the government seconds senior and middle-level government officials to take over administrative functions in the tsunami affected areas in order to ensure that these structures are able to function efficiently for relief efforts.

Considering the enormous destruction to life and property, we urge the government to postpone the Advanced Level Examination and all university examinations.

Sri Lanka Women's NGO Forum
Mothers and Daughters of Lanka
Action Network for Migrant Workers
Women's Alliance for Peace
Women's Alliance for Peace and Democracy
1 January 2005

3 Comments Post a comment
Anonymous Anonymous said :

My heart aches for the people struck by Asia's tsunami. Now I read that not only are the people subject to loss of life, displacement, hungar and disease... but on top of all of THAT...they are subject to rape and molestation! There are no words to express my sadness and feeling of helplessness for the innocent, the young and the greiving! What a horrible people we have become. This news starts off my morning of the New Year 2005! Could it get worse?

Sat Jan 01, 10:04:00 pm IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

It is a sad day to realize that the option of death is better than to live! RAPE!...MOLESTATION!... Why grieve for the dead, their suffering is over.

To live is to make your mark in the world. Stand up grieving men in Asia. Band together women. Fight for your lives just as you would fight for breath in the waters. Form yourselves into a protective force for the innocent. What can a people 1/2 a world away do for you that you cannot do for yourselves. We will send aid... but unfortunately we cannot protect you in your beds. I cannot image any good man not standing up for the innocent. How could this be happening! Be strong and fight this!!! You can do it, you must!!

Sat Jan 01, 10:53:00 pm IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

Tens of thousands dead, entire regions washed away and the threat of disease weighing over so many homeless people still grief stricken and in shock, and all these men can think about is sex!!! Rape and molestation among women and girls already victims of the tsunami, with their husbands, fathers and sons possibly dead, are there no good men left to protect them? Are they not in enough pain already, starving and too weak to defend themselves? I thought these regions were filled with strong religious values. Maybe I am wrong, and women have only one value to these men, who will undoubtedly, go unpunished.

Tue Jan 04, 07:44:00 am IST