Monday, 4 November 2013

The Raping of Paradise

This year, in March I was persuaded to write a small piece on the gang rape of a Sri Lankan girl who eventually escaped to the west. It was a story I had been reluctant to cover.
I am a novelist, not a journalist nor politician and I am not versed in the art of documentation. But the piece, Rani's Story  had thousands of hits and continues to do so. Yet for all that the experience left me listless, depressed, reluctant to continue blogging. What could I talk about next? The weather? Come Dancing? My cat? There seemed little point in speaking out about events in Sri Lanka when even some of my own friends were off on holiday to that 'marvellous island' in the sun and the Sri Lankan diaspora themselves insisted all was well in paradise.

Dispirited, I decided, I would say no more. My books would have to speak for me.

So from March until October I remained silent. Then, last night I was sent an article on the rape and murder of a young  Sri Lankan woman called Issei Piriya. Included in the article were three explicit photographs of the twenty-seven year old's naked body; a body so slender and fragile that looking at it I wanted to weep. That body which should have been the woman's private property by undisputed right, lay discarded like so much dirt, like a road kill.
She was dead of course and it was clear what had been done to her.
Even in death her face remained hauntingly beautiful.
I will not link those pictures here. It would be too shocking, too disrespectful to do so. Let imagination work in its place.

Through the night a series of questions kept me awake.

Why did no one care or stop what was happening in Sri Lanka?
Where was the voice of the international community?
Where was the voice of the Sri Lankan diaspora?
And, the greatest mystery of all,
what on earth was wrong with the men within the Sri Lankan army who conducted such animal-like acts of violence?
What kind of mind set did they have?

Don't get me wrong, this use of rape as a weapon isn't specific to Sri Lanka. One need look no further than nearby India to understand that! And in India there is no dictatorship or civil war to blame. But that does not answer the question, what kind of a man is capable of committing such acts?

We are told that education is what's needed to stop this behaviour.
Or religion, perhaps.
Or deterrents such as prison or the death sentence.
Or a democratic government in these troubled countries.
Or intervention from a more globally engaged community.
We are told the men who commit these crimes against humanity are dysfunctional individuals, monster-brothers spawned from a Grimm fairytale.
We are told all of these things but none of them provide a satisfactory answer.

And so I asked myself one last despairing question.
The ancient words proclaim that 'Man is born of woman' but where are those women now?
The mothers of those creatures who rape and kill so wantonly?
Where are they and how much do they care?
Did they not love enough?
Was this the thing that was missing in these men's lives, in their infancy?
Could it be, I asked myself, that behind every marauding monster there is an indifferent woman lurking in his shadowy past?
We blame those men who commit such terrible deeds, the governments who condone them, the dictators, the power hungry politicians, but we women are not blameless. Are we? The hand that rocks the cradle has a responsibility in all of this, too, has it not?

That hand, by definition, holds a certain power, however invisibly. I speak as a woman and a mother and someone who was born in the place that produced the world's first female Prime Minister.
If all the women of Sri Lanka were to speak out against this horrifying epidemic of violence, what kind of paradise might we begin to regain?

The Birthday Party.

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