Report on male sexual violence in Sri Lanka records over 100 cases (VIDEO)

By Athula Vithanage

A ground-breaking report on male sexual violence allegedly by Sri Lankan police and security forces has been released on Wednesday (19) in Geneva while the UN human rights commission is in session.

“Unsilenced: Male survivors speak on conflict-related sexual violence in Sri Lanka” analyses information gathered by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) from 121 men, all Tamils.

“Sexual violence against women, men, girls and boys is and has been committed to a large extent by those in the country’s extensive security apparatus who profit from a culture of impunity,” says the report’s author Dr. Heleen Touquet who was shocked by the findings.

Her research about conflict, reconciliation, mobilisation, conflict-related sexual violence and gender has been published in various peer-reviewed journals.

'A different level of brutality'

“I think the extent of violence is very different from the work that I have done before in Bosnia, in the sense that people were sexually abused multiple times, over several years and over several episodes of detention which makes is very different than anything I worked on before,” Dr Touquet told JDS.

The report concludes that the sexual abuse of Tamil men in detention in Sri Lanka is massive and widespread and has occurred throughout the conflict and the post-conflict period.


Survivors who have given disturbing testimonies to ITJP have been interviewed between 2014 and 2018 in various locations outside Sri Lanka.

“The violations cited in the testimonies took place in the post-conflict period, ranging from 2009 until 2017, under the different post-conflict governments of Sri Lanka,” says ITJP.

“All of the victims in the testimonies are Tamil men who were abducted or arrested after the conflict ended in 2009. Their ages vary, with the youngest victim 14 at the time of the violations, and the oldest in his late forties.”


The investigations have established that perpetrators belong to the various branches of the security services in the country.

“The testimonies mention the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) (both divisions of the Sri Lanka police), and different branches of the military. The victims are not always able to identify to which force the perpetrators belong, as they are sometimes dressed in civilian attire. Apart from the interrogators, the detainees are also abused by those who come to bring them food or the people who guard their cells.”

The report records instances where female perpetrators have been involved in torture, which it says is no exception in Sri Lanka.

“I was also interrogated by a female intelligence officer who badly tortured me,” one victim has said.

“She was in uniform. She beat me with batons. She was the worst torturer. She sexually tortured me. She stamped on my private parts and she beat me with sticks on my private parts. She tied my penis with thin thread and pulled it. She spoke Tamil, but she was Sinhalese.”

“This is a human rights report with a difference,” says Dr Chris Nolan who works with male survivors of conflict related sexual violence in Africa.

“Rather than providing a snapshot of what happened in a particular place at a particular time, it collates, sifts through, and articulates the essence of what has been done in a range of places over an extended period from 2009 to date (2018).”

Impunity and denial

The report paints a bleak picture of possible remedies within Sri Lanka.

“The impunity for war crimes and sexual crimes, corruption, the denial and silence, the lack of gender transitional justice mechanisms not to say the complete absence of transitional justice are all huge impediments to improving the situation for survivors of sexual violence.”

Therefore, it highlights the importance of  making sure that the voices of survivors – both in forced displacement and locally - are heard and documented.

Sri Lanka says it has a “Zero Tolerance Policy” on torture.

Its permanent representative in Geneva ALM Azeez meeting the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in read out a list of international conventions, that Sri Lanka has signed on torture.☐




Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.