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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
A study compiled by the London based Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and published in the British Medical Weekly of 10 June 2000 concluded that sexual abuse of Tamil men in detention is common in Sri Lanka. The study by M Peel, A Mahtani, G Hinshelwood, and D Forrest assessed medico-legal reports by 17 doctors investigating allegations by 184 Tamil men.
Excerpts from the Report: [for the full text of the Study see Lancet Interactive: The sexual abuse of men in detention in Sri Lanka]
"To estimate the frequency and consequences of the sexual abuse of men in detention in Sri Lanka, we reviewed records of all Sri-Lankan men who had been referred to the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture between January, 1997, and December, 1998. Those on whom medicolegal reports had been written were identified and the necessary information extracted. For the purposes of this paper, sexual abuse comprises assaults to the genitals, non-consensual sexual acts, and objects pushed through the anus. Rape was classed as non-consensual anal penetration with a penis...
Medicolegal reports were written by 17 doctors that supported the allegations of torture in Sri Lanka made by 184 Tamil men who had been referred during this period. ... Of the 184 men, 38 (21%) said they had been sexually abused during their detention. Three (7%) of the 38 said they had been given electric shocks to their genitals, 26 (68%) had been assaulted on their genitals, and four (9%) had sticks pushed through the anus, usually with chillies rubbed on the stick first. One said he had been forced to masturbate a soldier manually, three had been made to masturbate soldiers orally, and one had been forced with his friends to rape each other in front of soldiers for their "entertainment".
Of the men who said they had been sexually abused, 11 reported being raped as part of that sexual abuse; this represents 5% of the total number of men on whom reports were written. The men who had been raped were much younger, on average, than the men who said they had not been raped. This suggests that the soldiers choose the younger and more vulnerable men to rape.
Of the 38 men who had been sexually abused, only four (10%) had scarring of the genitals, and none of them were found to have significant scarring around the anus. Since there are very rarely any physical signs caused by acute sexual assault of men, it is not surprising that there were so few men with physical signs of their sexual abuse. The injuries were: thickening and tenderness of final 1-2 cm on urethra of a man who described a soldier pushing an object inside his penis; a scar on the base of shaft of penis of a man who said that soldiers had repeatedly slapped a heavy desk drawer shut on it; an irregularly defined defect in the foreskin of a man who said that soldiers had tied some string around his penis and pulled, tearing off a piece of his foreskin; and a cigarette burn on the scrotum of a man who said that soldiers had stubbed cigarettes out on his genitals.
Sexual abuse in detention starts with forced nudity, which many of the Sri Lankan detainees described. This is usually associated with verbal sexual threats and mocking, which adds to the humiliation and degradation of being tortured. In 37 (20%) of the men in this study, this psychological sexual abuse was followed by physical abuse, and 5% were raped by or at the instigation of their captors. ... Most said they had been taken out individually by the soldiers on guard and raped.
...the evidence suggests that the motivation for sexual assault of men is the demonstration of complete control over the victim, and that the perpetrators do not perceive themselves or their acts as homosexual...
Torture is defined by the UN as the deliberate infliction of physical and psychological pain by or with the acquiescence of a person acting in an official capacity, with one of several intentions including the intimidation of the victim or third parties. It is an aggravated form of degrading and inhuman treatment. Sexual abuse in detention is always torture. Rape is an attack dominated by feelings of power and anger, rather than being primarily an expression of sexual desire.
We believe that sexual abuse of Tamil men in detention is common in Sri Lanka. Although in this sample the proportion was 20%, the true number is probably higher as some will not have reported it.
Sri Lanka is a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture, and as such must prevent, investigate, and punish all cases of torture. The authorities in Sri Lanka must take action now to stop the torture, sexual assault, and rape of detainees."