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Women's Action Network concerned about political manipulation of Trinco sexual assault incident

The Women’s Action Network has expressed concern that instead of working to obtain justice for three young children that were sexually assaulted in Trincomalee, politicians are taking advantage of the incident to fulfil their own agendas.

Although three construction workers were initially accused of the assault of three young girls in Mallikaitheevu, Trincomalee, and beaten by locals, the victims did not identify these men as the perpetrators.

The misidentification has caused communal tensions in the area as the victims were Tamil and the beaten construction workers Muslim.

The Women’s Action Network said in a statement that they were ”deeply concerned that political parties and politicians are taking advantage of this tragic situation to fulfil their own political and communal agendas, instead of working together to obtain justice for the three children and hold the perpetrator/s accountable for their crime.”

Noting that the Mallikaitheevu assault was a consequence of impunity for sexual violence, the network said: “in recent years, WAN has observed an alarming increase in cases of paedophilia and sexual violence. This case is merely symptomatic of the social ills that plague women and children, particularly in the north and east, where the aftermath of war has left so many female-headed households vulnerable.”

Read full statement below.

Women's Action Network Stands With Sexual Assaulted Survivors and Calls for Due Process and Justice Over Politics

On May 28, 2017, three school girls from the same family, ages seven and eight, were sexually abused by an unknown person at a nearby construction site on their way home from tuition class, in Peruveli, Mallikaitheevu, Trincomalee. Family members reported the incident to the Muttur police. Meanwhile, villagers assaulted three construction workers on suspicion of committing the crime; the three were later arrested by the police. The case has taken a communal angle as the victims are from the Tamil community whereas the accused are from the Muslim community.

The survivors of sexual assault were kept at the police station for an inquiry from 6.30 pm to 1.00 am that same night, and later admitted to the Trincomalee Hospital. It is alleged that during the period when the survivors were in police custody one of the lawyers appearing for the accused allegedly walked into the police station and had the victims identify the three suspects in police custody but the survivors did not identify them. While the victims were being admitted at the hospital, the police allegedly showed them a photograph of another individual, who they identified as the perpetrator. 

On June 05th, an identification parade was held at the Muttur Magistrate Court.  The three arrested suspects were produced, but none of them were identified by the survivors. The police did not produce the individual the victims identified as the perpetrator. The case was brought before the court on June 12th. The police produced a fourth suspect and two witnesses to the sexual assault (also children). These two witnesses identified the 4th accused as someone they had seen standing near the building (where the three children were being sexually abused) and had called the witnesses into the same building. The Magistrate granted bail to all four accused and fixed the next hearing date for July 10th. The case has intensified the trauma of victims and their families and resulted further heightened tensions between the Tamil and Muslim communities in the area. Protests were held calling for justice for the victims, and there were many politicians present in court.   

We, the Women’s Action Network (WAN*), are deeply concerned that political parties and politicians are taking advantage of this tragic situation to fulfil their own political and communal agendas, instead of working together to obtain justice for the three children and hold the perpetrator/s accountable for their crime. It is very difficult for survivors of sexual violence and their families to stand up for justice, which is why so few cases have been taken to court. The trauma of coming forward, leads to most cases of grave sexual violence being buried and perpetrators being allowed to roam free and continue to abuse others. In recent years, WAN has observed an alarming increase in cases of paedophilia and sexual violence. This case is merely symptomatic of the social ills that plague women and children, particularly in the north and east, where the aftermath of war has left so many female-headed households vulnerable. It is paramount that politicians and their allies, as well as local organizations and activists, stand and work together regardless of their ethnicity, religion, political or personal ideologies, to bring about justice for these children, and ensure that the true perpetrator/s are prosecuted and dealt maximum sentences under the law with immediate effect. Only then can we ensure that such heinous crimes are not repeated. Justice for the children and the family, not politics, must take centre stage.

*WAN is a collective of 8 women’s organisations that are working in the north and east” 

issued on 14th June 2017