The London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG) has called upon Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) to boycott the summit due to be held in Lanka in November.
Releasing a report entitled Living with Insecurity: Marginalization and Sexual Violence Against Women in North and East Sri Lanka on Thursday, Chris Chapman, MRG’s Head of Conflict Prevention, said: “It is clear that Sri Lanka has failed and, as this report shows, continues to fail, in its duty to protect the human rights of its Tamil and Muslim minorities. At the very least, Heads of State should show their commitment to the basic values of the Commonwealth by not attending the meeting.”
“Given the severity of its rights record, Sri Lanka’s hosting of CHOGM and forthcoming appointment to the Chairmanship of the Commonwealth, present a serious challenge to the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting human rights and democratic values,” the report’s introductory note said.
“The government is actively contributing to the insecurity of minority women through the militarization of the North and East, and by maintaining a climate of impunity where human rights violations continue,” charged Farah Mihlar, MRG’s South Asia expert.
“Activists said they were aware of cases of rape, sexual abuse and harassment of Tamil women by members of the armed forces; however, in almost all cases, the women were too scared to report this to the police. They also reported a marked increase in sexual activity between soldiers and women in the community.”
“Even when such relationships were voluntary, the long-term cost to the women could be considerable: some women, for example, having become pregnant, found themselves rejected by the men involved and ostracized by their own community,” the report pointed out.
The military visited civilian homes to obtain information on the whereabouts of male family members and to monitor the movement of villagers, activists said.
Women who headed households were often financially desperate due to the lack of income and some might, as a result, have engaged in sex work or had sexual relationships for favours, the report said.
“A large number of women lost their loved ones in the weeks preceding the end of the conflict, yet the military refuses to permit them to mourn their anniversaries,” the report pointed out.