Sri Lanka has a suggestion for some underage victims of rape: consider marrying your attackers.
This is Mahinda Rajapaksa — the president of Sri Lanka. He’s been accused of war crimes and suppressing media freedom, but it’s his most recent comments that really have people talking. (Via Al Jazeera)
Local media quotes him saying if a girl is statutorily raped, but consented to the sex, "it may be good to have legislation that allows the perpetrator to marry the ‘victim’ with her consent.” (Via Sri Lanka Guardian)
As several journalists noted, the proposal has some obvious loopholes regarding children who are too confused or frightened to understand they can say no to marriage.
As a writer for Firstpost explains: “How for instance is 'consent' determined? If there was no one else present at the time of the incident, what do we do when it's one person's word against the other?”
The proposed legislation is seen as a solution to reduce the number of recorded rapes in the country. Under Sri Lankan law raping one's spouse, in most cases, isn't considered a crime. So, with this new legislation, rapists could avoid legal action by marrying their victims. (Via International Models Project On Women's Rights)
It's essentially forced marriage, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission, which notes many children "might be compelled by familial and societal pressure to marry their rapists."
The idea, however, isn't unique to Sri Lanka. Buzzfeed notes the practice of rapists marrying their victims is "commonly accepted in Pakistan" and "neighboring India does not consider rape within marriage a crime."
As for Sri Lanka, the president's controversial remarks are actually just the latest in a series of baffling comments about women made by male politicians.
The country's women's affairs minister also said rapists should be able to marry their victims — but, unlike the president, suggested rapists should have to wait until their victims were 18. (Via UNICEF)
That’s the same official, by the way, that said he favored public caning as an alternative to life imprisonment for rapists. (Via The Republic Square)
Perhaps most disturbing — Sri Lanka’s speaker of parliament said recently women, not men, are to blame for violence against women. A comment, he made of all places, at an event to promote International Women’s Day.
These politicians say the latest legislation is designed to provide justice for victims of rape. Ultimately, Sri Lanka seem to be missing the bigger issue. A recent United Nations survey of Sri Lankan men found only 3.2 percent of those who admit to rape are ever arrested for it.