Crimes against women and victim blaming

Saturday, 13 May 2023 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Something is very rotten in the country when it comes to the safety, security, and well-being of women of Sri Lanka with teenage and young women subject to the most heinous crimes on a regular basis. News of girls and young women falling victim to violence, sexual exploitation and abuse has become so commonplace that it’s passed off as just another crime.

The death of a 16-year-old girl due to the fall from a window at a rest house in Kalutara is the latest in a long line of horrendous cases where the life of a young female has ended in tragedy. While it is still inconclusive if the death was a result of suicide or homicide, what is clear is that an underage girl was the victim of sexual exploitation.

In January this year, an undergraduate of the science faculty of the Colombo University was murdered in broad daylight by her boyfriend at the Colombo Racecourse while in April, a 25-year-old preschool from Peradeniya was murdered in April. In the latter investigations are still pending.

There was also the news this week of the arrest of a private tuition master from Kalutara who stands accused of molesting at least 16 of his female students and video recording the unsavoury incidents. These are just a few of incidents of women being killed or physically/sexually abused with the suspects in most cases being their partners or persons known to the victims.

Almost as disturbing as these incidents are the attitude of society toward the victims of such heinous crimes. The 16-year-old victim in Kalutara is being mocked with memes created to blame her for the turn of events instead of the searchlight being turned on the suspects. 

Societal attitudes towards crimes against women have reached such a sickening proportion that when a young woman was murdered by her lover and her body put into a suitcase and thrown into a river, some though it funny enough to create memes asking women: “Do you want to be carried away in a suitcase?”.

While no law enforcement authority in the world can put a complete stop to crimes such as those mentioned above, if there is no attempt to address victim blaming even in cases of serious incidents such as murder, the women of this country are headed for worse times.

Sensitising males in particular is seriously needed and this needs to be in homes and schools so that instead of mocking women who fall victim to crimes, they do empathise with those of the opposite sex.

Police personnel who investigate such incidents too have to be trained  to handle such cases with sensitivity and empathy as it has been clear from recent incidents, selective leaking of information related to investigations is being done to blame victims and their families and shield suspects.  

One case in point is the murder of the undergraduate, where her suspect boyfriend’s statement was leaked to the media even before a ‘B” report was filed in court which was more a character assassination of the victim than an indictment of the man who had murdered her. This led to Police headquarters issuing a circular prohibiting leaking statements to the media but in the latest incident involving the death of the 16 year old in Kalutara, this has been repeated.

There is no doubt that there will be many more crimes against women in this country with one forgotten as soon as the next sensational case comes along but what is forgotten by the public hungry for sensational news and to some extent, the law enforcement authorities , is that victims leave behind their families, their parents, their children and mocking victims and using someone’s misfortune for momentary pleasure only reflects the decay in our society and the serious threat women in this country face to their security and wellbeing.