As I was leaving the office yesterday, one of the HHR staff came and told me news that he had just received from our Batticaloa office in the Eastern province.
A girl, 22 years old, was abducted from a safe house where she was living with 19 other girls. She was raped and stabbed to death.
Last semester one of my professors talked about how to construct a human rights “argument.” In other words, how do we present our case so that it captures the world’s attention as a human rights violation?
Amnesty International, for example, is known for highlighting the experiences of particular individuals to make the abuse more personal and real. Human Rights Watch relies on its reputation for unbiased statistics and thorough research.
At this moment, sitting here in HHR’s Colombo office, I am a little stunned. I came into the office early this morning, wanting to see the overnight news reported on this incident. Instead I found…nothing. No news. No one has told, so no one has heard.
Oh, there are several stories about Sri Lanka. The national cricket team is in a tournament that I won’t even pretend to understand. Also, did you know the government has pushed the LTTE out of the East and regained control of the province for the first time in 14 years? Everyone is talking about that.
But as usual, the innocent victims get lost in the shuffle. The world hears about the conflict, the two opposing violent voices, and nothing about the innocent victims. One more rape, one more death, one more number.
So it is our duty, the HHR staff and myself, as human rights advocates to tell the world. It is our responsibility to make the argument. I understand it needs to be done. I understand the world needs to be told. I understand that if I tell you everything I heard yesterday, you might understand how dangerous this conflict is for Sri Lankan civilians living in these areas.
But part of me balks. There are certain things that I cannot say in this blog, for the safety of the HHR staff and the victims. But right now there is something that I just do not want to say.
Shouldn’t it be enough to know she was raped and murdered? Shouldn’t it be enough that she is not the first and will not be the last?
Do I really need to describe the excruciatingly brutal crime in detail for the world to care that gang rape and murder have been institutionalized here?
I could. I heard enough yesterday. But I don’t want to. I think her privacy, like the women before her, has been violated far too much already. I think it should be enough to say that this rape happened, that such rapes are not unknown here, and that the government is doing nothing to stop them or investigate.
Perhaps my unwillingness to expose the brutality in this case or the other rape cases makes me a bad human rights advocate. I can’t “construct the argument” as my professor would say. I don’t know.
But really, you don’t want me to tell you. Because then you won’t be able to sleep at night either.
Posted By Madeline England
Posted Jul 12th, 2007