Written by Nathasha De Alwis
12 Mar, 2019 | 5:40 pm
Colombo (News 1st): What is Sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature and the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favours. Sexual harassment includes a range of actions from mild transgressions to sexual abuse or assault.
As Sri Lankan women we experience countless sexual incidents of harassment in public transportation, when at a shop, at home etc. For any woman travelling in Sri Lanka, it doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a foreigner, it is difficult for them to even smile with a stranger without being misunderstood and misjudged. Us women are afraid of being themselves and even smiling back when a stranger smiles.
Following is the story of a woman who wanted her voice to be heard by the world, who wanted to ask the fellow women to speak up. On March 8th, ironically on the International Women’s Day, an US national Karen Hsin who was travelling around Mirissa had to face an unfortunate situation. She was walking towards a small rotti shop with the hope of having a hot coffee.
In her Facebook post, describing how she was assaulted she types, “As my friend walked in and asked for a coffee, a local middle-aged man brushed past me and grabbed my vagina.” She added that at first she was confused and then was shocked by what happened to her.
The woman then had lodged a complaint with the Kotawila police, however, she notes that it was hard for her to do so. She said that with the bystanders trying to help the assaulter and try to reason with her she knew she had to press charges against the man.
Meanwhile, she had been able to get the attention of two traffic policemen who were in the area but notes, “the traffic officers didn’t voluntarily call the actual police for me.” She notes that the assaulter was later handcuffed and was taken to the police station in a three-wheeler. Accordingly, she said, “After half an hour, they (Police) finally gave me a piece of paper to file a complaint about ‘lost/stolen property”.
She noted that she not only had to pay for the three-wheeler she travelled in but also had to pay for the other three-wheelers as well. This is what she said, “After we arrived back in Mirissa, the driver told us we’d have to pay Rs 1900 rupees for the round trip and the cost of taking the suspect to the police station.”
Hsin went on to state, “That’s a first I’ve heard – a sexual assault victim has to pay for a taxi for her assaulter and an “official” policeman to be brought to the police station.” When questioned now the Kotawila police noted that they are not aware of any three-wheeler charges. They noted that the suspect has been released on bail.
We as women in Sri Lanka should not be afraid to travel alone even at night, and should not worry about wearing certain clothing. We should have our freedom without wondering about the consequences. Remember, even if you’re touched above your clothing, an assault is an assault, you have the right to complain and press charges.
According to the National study commissioned by UNFPA 90% of the women are subjected to sexual harassment in public transport and only 4% of them report the incident with the Police in Sri Lanka. As women let’s stand up together and speak up, let’s say no to the sexual assault we have to experience when travelling in public transportation. Let’s speak out to confront the plague of sexual harassment against women.
This is Karen Hsin’s story;
16 Mar, 2019 | 03:31 PM
15 Mar, 2019 | 08:32 AM
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