Protest against gang rape and murder a school girl in Sri Lanka. (Photo: Ponniah Manikavasagam)

Protest against gang rape and murder a school girl in Sri Lanka. (Photo: Ponniah Manikavasagam)

Hundreds of people mostly women took to the streets of the capital Colombo shouting ‘we want justice for Vidya.”

18 year old Vidya Sivaloganathan was abducted on her way to school. The following day her body was found.  Police say she was gang raped and then murdered.

This horrific death sent shock waves across the country triggering protests and demonstrations.

On the 20th of May protests in Jaffna suddenly turned violent; stones were pelted at the court house and vehicles. 

Several policemen were injured. The police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.  

Demonstrations in Jaffna have now been banned.

Nichala Emmanuel a human rights activist with the Catholic church explains why people were so angry.

“If the police had acted immediately, soon after receiving the complaint, Vidya could have been saved. It took 3 hours for the police to visit the scene of crime after the family members found the dead body. A key suspect escaped and was later arrested in Colombo. Police delayed bringing this suspect to the courts and that angered the crowd waiting outside the courts and the trouble started,” he said. 

Increasingly, people in northern Sri Lanka feel that criminals are gaining the upper hand.

There are a lot of rapes and murders.

Impunity was on the rise under the previous government and has paved the way for crimes within the community.

Local people feel that police have failed to take some crimes seriously enough at first.

Nalliah Somaskandarajah is a retired civil servant. 

“The people think that the police have not done enough to protect them. In past cases criminals were arrested but the released on bail or they were not punished at all by the courts. People are worried that the same thing will happen again in this case.  The perpetrators should be punished in front of the people so others dare not too the same crimes,” he said. 

School children across the island have been among those protesting demanding justice and greater protection of school girls and women. 

In the past demonstrations in the past were politically motivated and sometimes involved Tamil Tiger rebels who controlled the area.

Now it is the people, not political figures, who are demanding justice.

Shreen Zarooris is the co-founder of the women’s action network.

"With the change of government there is now space for civil society in the North. Nobody is going to abducted or taken away because you are protesting or anything of that sort. But the reason we need to protest is because there is still a culture of impunity in our society and it is still very militarized. The society has a whole has no faith in the authorities,” she said.

The government says three teams of police have been deployed to handle the investigations of Vidya’s rape and murder.

President Maithiripala Sirisena also paid a visit to Jaffna and called for calm.

“I hope the President will act so that there will be a situation and environment where the children and women will be protected,” said Reverend Nichala. 


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