I am a young Sri Lankan lawyer, based in London but here in Dubai for the next few months for a short stint. I was reading your article on the enforced virginity tests on university students at the Sri Jayewardenepura University by the vice chancellor and was shocked that such barbaric and primitive behaviour can be committed and tolerated in a supposedly civilised country like Sri Lanka! You could accept such barbarism in countries such as Afghanistan where women have less worth than chattels, but in a country such as Sri Lanka which has relished equality for women throughout the centuries, such acts should not by any means be tolerated! It is heartening that journalists such as yourself are bringing these issues to attention.
Recently I have been severely disturbed reading stories of police arresting couples for “indecent” behaviour and now this horror story of forcing adult, educated women to have virginity tests! What is indecent is something for the courts of Sri Lanka to decide and that too the superior courts. Indecency is generally defined as an act so extremely offensive that it must be criminal. Courts are highly reluctant to classify any word or act as being indecent as it is often based on individual prerogative. What is indecent for one man, is generally not for the other. Therefore, it is only normal for courts to consider other factors when determining the indecency of the matter, such as the identification of a victim, where one party is forced into an act or is underage. An act by two people, especially of kissing, holding hands, cuddling and embracing in public is by no manner indecent, especially under Sri Lankan law and those innocent youth being arrested have every right to petition the Supreme Court for unlawful arrest.
This attention should also be brought to the recent moves by the Women’s and Children’s Bureau for their recent moral rampage of removing billboards deemed “indecent” (of largely only women wearing perfectly normal clothing such as jogging gear, etc) and for banning pornographic websites. The role of that bureau is to protect women and children that are being abused and exploited. Consenting women who are being paid a large sum of money for advertisements where they are wearing jogging gear or even swim wear is by no means within the ambit of the jurisdiction of this bureau and neither the juvenile magistrate in Battaramulla that is banning pornographic websites like no tomorrow – as that in itself is an adult matter and not one of children. It is also ironic that with two thirds of Sri Lankan women being subject to domestic violence and children being physically, emotionally and sexually abused, this bureau is more concerned about the consented practices of adults rather than the protection of victims!
It is time for the women of our nation to stand up to this new injustice being enforced against them, through a mentality that never dared raise their heads before but now seem to have found a new courage to enforce these radical, non-Sri Lankan values on our people, and mostly, our women. I am grateful that women such as yourself are raising these issues in the press. But I do hope that as much as it is raised in the English press that the same is done in the Sinhala and Tamil press.
Please keep up your good work for Sri Lankan women and the preservation of our time held liberties. Please do not give up on that dastardly act by this so-called Vice Chancellor and continue your media campaign against this atrocity. As a man, it disgusts me to see our women humiliated and treated with such contempt through the enforcement of an alien morality and barbarism. By no circumstance should this ever be tolerated.
I wish you the best in your work.