Conditioned by war

In Sri Lanka, post-war trauma and a militarised peace have created a violent society, with children the worst affected.

Having experienced one long war and two insurgencies, Sri Lanka is no stranger to violence. But until a few years ago, violent crimes targeting children were relatively rare in this wounded land. Historical maladies such as female infanticide, which tormented many of the country's Southasian compatriots, were unknown. There was poverty, malnourishment and child labour, and certainly some amount of child abuse – including sexual abuse – shrouded in the privacy of homes, schools and religious institutions. But violent crimes against children, of the sort that cannot be hidden from either the police or the public, were uncommon.

Not anymore. Today, violent crimes against children are everyday news. The end of 2012 and the start of 2013 brought news of two horrendous cases, one from the Tamil-majority north and the other from the Sinhala-majority south. In late December, on the small island of Mandativu off the Jaffna coast, the body of a four-year-old girl, reportedly raped and strangled, was found in an abandoned well. In early January, in Colombo district, a baby girl died after her father assaulted her and burnt the lower half of her body. The father, who was out on bail after allegedly raping his 17-year-old cousin, has since killed himself.

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Himal Southasian