Human Rights

INGO's efforts to help war affected women 'laughably inefficient’

Measures taken by the community, by the state, and by international actors to address the needs of war affected Tamil women in northern Sri Lanka have only made the situation worse, says a recent report by a leading research centre.

‘The Forever Victims? Tamil Women in Post-War Sri Lanka,’ published by the Colin Powell school for Leadership and Service, has recorded the negative impacts of 6 years of militarization on Tamil women’s lives in Sri Lanka.

Its authors, Nimmi Gowrinathan and Kate Cronin-Furman who have interviewed over fifty people from the war affected north say that uncovered ‘a very disturbing dynamic, in which efforts to protect women from sexual violence end up undermining their political and economic agency, making them even more vulnerable to victimization’.

'Exploitative relationships'

“Tamil women in Northern Sri Lanka still face the risk of rape and harassment by the security forces present throughout the region, but their lives are even more negatively impacted by the climate of fear and by a worrying uptick in violence against women within the Tamil community,” says the report.

"The absence of the disciplinarian leadership of the LTTE alongside heavy militarization has fostered the growth of exploitative sexual relationships", the report asserts.

The authors say that rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment remain a concern among Tamil women. However, A priest has told the authors “So many things are hidden when it comes to rape. Rape by the military is the most hidden. It is only the doctors who really see it”.

Evaluating the impact of the international community, the authors say that most International Non Government Organisations rely upon ‘livelihoods’ or ‘income-generation’ model to alleviate a broad array of women’s grievances, including gender-based violence.

'Chickens for rape victims'

These projects that include everything from the distribution of chickens, cows, and sewing machines to home-gardening and beauty parlor training are described by the authors as  ‘laughably inefficient’. It also says that they ‘potentially expose their beneficiaries to danger’.

One woman interviewed in the Vanni in 2012 was quoted in the report.

“An international group dropped three chickens to those of us, who were raped, and said they would come the next day with some feed and cages. They haven’t still come, and already one chicken has died. What if someone sees the two others and knows that I reported the rape?”

The ever-present threat of violence by the military has led women to lead tightly circumscribed lives, limiting their daily activities in order to minimize their risk of sexual assault, the report reveals.

However, the women’s ‘reduced participation in public life keeps them in the home, where they are increasingly vulnerable to violence at the hands of the men in their lives, many of whom are also struggling with the after-effects of wartime trauma,’ it further adds.

The report does not propose any recommendations.

“The solutions should come from the affected women and the community themselves,” says Nimmi Gowrinathan.

© JDS

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Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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