JAFFINA: In post-war Jaffna, those who had suffered torture at the hands of the Sri Lankan armed forces show a tendency to torture family members to give went to hidden anger and other frustrations, a senior counselor at a well known post-conflict rehabilitation organization in the North Lankan town told Express on Friday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the counselor said that men who were torture victims often lose their self confidence and the will to work and earning a living. This forces the wife to go out and earn to keep the home fires burning. But when the wife goes out, the husband becomes suspicious about her sexual behavior and tortures her. The children too become targets of his pent up frustrations.
“Domestic violence, mainly in the form of wife beating, is increasing in Jaffna making it a significant social evil here,” the counselor said.
Related to domestic violence in the post-war scene is an increase in the tendency among married women to commit suicide. Explaining this curious phenomenon in which suicidal tendencies surface during peace rather than war, the counselor said that when the war was on, women were completely preoccupied with coping with the task of protecting the lives of their family and children from shelling by the army and compulsory recruitment by the LTTE. Frequent displacement only increased their work. But after the war, the women are finding it very difficult to cope with poverty, made worse in many cases by alcoholic and straying husbands.
The children too get out of hand because of the new culture of social impunity which has sprung up in the absence of strict social authority of the kind which existed during the rule of the LTTE.
Ex-Militants Cope Better
While the average Jaffna woman tends to put up with male arrogance, having been brought up in male dominant Jaffna Tamil society, women who were in the LTTE do not. Many ex-militant female cadres are married to men who themselves had been LTTE militants. Having been nurtured in a fiercely equalitarian LTTE, militant couples treat each other as equals. The Late Maj.Gen. K.Jagath Wijetilleke, who was Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, once told Express that men are “afraid” of ex-militant girls.
Coping With Trauma
Asked about difficulties in treating persons who had been victims of torture, the psychological counselor said that it is indeed very hard for them to forget and forgive. “Empowerment” will enable victims of torture to emerge from the thralldom of the bitter past, she said.
Dr.S.Sivathas, Psychiatrist at the Vavuniya General Hospital, who has treated ex-militants for trauma, told this correspondent that the rehabilitation process should not insist on the victim’s regretting and disowning his past but should show him an alternative way of living, more attuned to the changed circumstances.