We are a group of concerned citizens including university academics who are writing this letter to express our concern over the incident reported in The Sunday Leader of September 19 and 26, 2010.
According to these reports the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura sent six female students in a university vehicle to the Kalubowila Hospital with instructions that they should be compelled to undergo virginity tests.
Virginity testing of women is an infringement of their rights of privacy, dignity and physical integrity. When it is coerced it amounts to sexual harassment and gender based violence. The Director of the Kalubowila Hospital has assured that no such test was performed in the hospital, and this has been confirmed by one of the students taken to the hospital. However, this assurance does not in any way confirm that these students were not sent to the hospital on the orders of the Vice Chancellor for the purpose of undergoing virginity tests. We wish to point out that forcibly taking students to a hospital for any kind of medical examination is a violation of their rights and is illegal.
The Vice Chancellor has made public statements in the print media and on television denying the incident. However, the newspaper report indicated that journalists had interviewed students and others at the university who stated that these students had in fact been sent for the test. Those interviewed wished to remain anonymous. We also note that according to the report the vehicle in which the students were transported was identified as a university vehicle.
The allegations in regard to this incident undermine the reputation of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura as well as the state higher education system. In view of the unfavourable publicity generated by this report, a full and fair investigation would be in the best interests of both the university authorities and the students and the state education system.
In a situation where such serious allegations are made, there must be a procedure within the university to investigate what has happened and if necessary, take further action to respond to such allegations. There are institutions within the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to address this kind of allegation, namely the Council which is the governing body, and the Senate comprising of professors, deans and heads of departments, which is the highest academic authority. It is their responsibility in the interests of students, staff and the public to ensure that this matter is investigated. Institutional safeguards must also be developed to prevent such incidents happening again. We call upon the Council, and the Senate of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to respond to these allegations as a matter of urgency.
We also consider it important that Vice Chancellors conform to ethics and norms of conduct that university academics should follow in their administration, consistent with the concept of university autonomy and responsible administration. We wish to remind that our universities are members of the Association of Commonwealth Universities which also seeks to promote the idea that universally accepted norms of conduct should be followed by academics and university administrators. We call upon the Committee of Vice Chancellors to prepare a Code of Conduct for Vice Chancellors which will guide them in their administration of universities and safeguard certain basic values in the university system of our country.
Dinali Devendra, Prof., K.M. Nalin de Silva, Dr. Rohini de Silva, Jayantha Dhanapala, Shanthi Dias, Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Dr. Camena Guneratne, Dr. Ranil D Guneratne, Prof. Chandra Gunewardena, Anberiya Haniffa, Dr. Farzhana Haniffa, Shyamani Hettiarachchi, Dr. Sujatha Hewage, Jezima Ismail, Chandra Jayaratne, Dr. Janaki Jayawardane, Fr. Sydney Knight, Chulani Kodikara, Manikya Kodituwakku, Lal Medawattegedera, Dr. Mahim Mendis, Dr. Anita Nesiah, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Dr. Asiri Perera, Kaushalya Perera, Niranjani Perera, Prof. Sudatta Ranasinghe, Prof. Ryhana Raheem, Dr. Nirmal Ranjit, Rohana Ratnayake, Dr. Hemamala Ratwatte, Dinesha Samararatne, Dr. Gameela Samarasinghe, Kumudini Samuel, Thana Sanmugam, Dharshana Sumanadasa, Dr. Deepika Udugama, A.C. Visvalingam, Dr. Kanchanakesi Warnapala
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