STF assaults widow for reporting sexual harassment
[TamilNet, Sunday, 22 April 2001, 11:17 GMT]
A widow who reported sexual harassment a group Special Task Force (STF) commandos was severely assaulted by them and was admitted to the Batticaloa hospital Sunday morning. The woman, Mahendran Nageswary, 37, Saturday complained to an officer at the STF’s main camp at Karaithivu, 46 kilometres south of Batticaloa, that a group of STF commandos from Kaluwanchikudy were harassing her. The woman was beaten up by the STF personnel who had been intimidating when she returned home Saturday evening. The commandos beat up woman’s son too when he had tried to help his mother who had fallen on the ground unconscious, hospital sources said.
According to Nageswary’s neighbours, a group of STF commandos had been harassing her with sexual intent for almost two weeks.
They had gone to Nageswary’s house on 17 April and accused her of giving food to members of the Liberation Tigers the night before. They had then ordered her to go into a room in the house. Nageswary, according to relatives, refused to comply, fearing sexual harassment.
The commandos had then left, threatening her that they could do anything to her and she was helpless against them.
The widow’s eldest son had been a member of the Liberation Tigers and was killed in action two years ago. The STF men had used this information to beat up Nageswary’s younger son whenever they accosted him on the road and also when they began harassing her, neighbours said.
The STF personnel had gone back to her house again on 20 April and harassed the widow again. One of them had tried to drag her inside the house. Nageswary had, however, freed her self and run out. The STF commandos had threatened her again.
The widow, acting upon the advice of the relatives and neighbours went to the STF’s main camp at Karaithivu and asked to see the Officer in Charge to complain about the harassment. An STF commando in the camp identified as Premaratna listened to her complaint and sent her back, promising to take action on the matter.
But as soon the woman got back to Kaluthavalai, the STF personnel who had harassed her had gone to her house and assaulted her for daring to complain. Nageswary was admitted to the Batticaloa hospital with multiple contusions and chest and abdominal pains. Hospital sources said the widow had fainted when she was hit on the head.
The STF group had ordered the woman’s son to report to the Kaluwanchikudy camp Saturday evening. He, however, brought his mother to Batticaloa and stayed on, fearing that he would be arrested and detained in revenge.
The widow has been living with her sister in Kaluthavalai, 22 kilometers south of Batticaloa, since the Police occupied her home in a suburb on the eastern town’s outskirts in 1998.
Sources in Kaluthavalai said that STF commandos have used similar methods in the past to sexually harass attractive women in Tamil villages on the southern coastal belt of the Batticaloa district or to intimidate them into submission. Families of LTTE members living in the narrow coastal part of the district controlled by the Sri Lankan security forces are particularly vulnerable, the sources added.
Few women dared to complain fearing arrest and detention of family members under the sweeping powers granted to the Sri Lankan security forces by the Emergency Regulations.