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Chapter 04. True stories from women wards by Harshi C. Perera
Sri Lanka Prisons:-
True stories from women wards
by Harshi C. Perera
Madu's Story; Torture and Professional Negligence
"When Madu went to the police station the next day she was assaulted with a cricket pole and told to plead guilty. They took her signature on a written statement by force. The statement was neither read nor explained to her. After that she was produced before the Magistrate's Court. The magistrate remanded Madu on the 28th January and she pleaded innocent."
Madu is a 20-year-old resident of Kaduwela. She is married and a mother of a three year old baby girl who is now placed under the care of her mother in law. Her father was a drunkard since she was a child and her mother is a heart patient.
One day she found her brother-in-law's clothes in a basin ready for washing. It looked brown in color so she asked him what the reason was. He told her that he had a fight with his relatives.
This quarrel had taken place on 24th January 2010 and Madu's father had stabbed him. Her brother-in-law removed the knife and stabbed her father who died on the spot. Madu only came to know about the incident on 26th January.
After the burial of the body the police arrested the brother in law, Madu's brother and a relative regarding the alleged murder. The police informed the family to appear at the police station the next day.
When Madu went to the police station the next day she was assaulted with a cricket pole and told to plead guilty. They took her signature on a written statement by force. The statement was neither read nor explained to her. After that she was produced before the Magistrate's Court. The magistrate remanded Madu on the 28th January and she pleaded innocent.
A lady lawyer appeared on Madu's behalf but did not explain the details of the lawsuit. Madu has no way to contact the lawyer who has never some to the prison to interview her. According to the ethics of lawyers they have to do best behalf of the client.
The charge against Madu is one of aiding and abetting murder. This is her first offence but she has now been in remand prison for eight months.
The Constitution of Sri Lanka mentions in chapter (111) Fundamental Rights as article 11 that: No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Torture is a crime under the torture act which was passed by the parliament in 1994. It was mentioned in the Torture Act
2. (1) Any person who tortures any other person shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. (2) Any person who -
(a) attempts to commit;
(b) aids and abets in committing;
(c) conspires to commit,
an offence under subsection (1), shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.
3) The subjection of any person on the order of a competent court to any form of punishment recognized by written law shall be deemed not to constitute an offence under subsection (1).
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this Act shall on conviction after trial by the High Court be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term not less than seven years and not exceeding ten years and a fine not less than ten thousand rupees and not exceeding fifty thousand rupees.
(5) An offence under this Act shall be a cognizable offence and a non-bailable offence, within the meaning, and for the purposes, of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, No.15 of 1979.
Piyawathi's Story: Custody, Care and Correction
"One night she chopped her mother in law and sister in law who were sleeping on a mat using a big knife. After that she pretended nothing had happened. Her relatives handed her over to the police and she was remanded. Nobody from her family ever visited her at the prison."
Piyawathi is married with five children and comes from the lower income class. At the age of 52 she was imprisoned for the alleged murder of two people. She never confessed to the crime. Piyawathi's behavior is not normal and does not speak very much. The only evidence in the case was a big knife. The truth was that she committed the crime.
The result of the examination of her behavior revealed that she suffered from a mental disorder which was common in her family. This was the background to this double murder. The family members concerned about this mater after the voluntary consultation of a Ruhuna university student. The general situation was that she had committed the crime. If she was proved guilty the sentence will be very clear.Although her family members never utter that some of their family members suffered from minor mental disorders the people in their neighborhood gossip about it.
One night she chopped her mother in law and sister in law who were sleeping on a mat using a big knife. After that she pretended nothing had happened. Her relatives handed her over to the police and she was remanded. Nobody from her family ever visited her at the prison. At first no lawyers appeared for her. But one day a relative after the consultation of Ruhuna university student visited the prison. After that a senior lawyer appeared behalf of her and obtained a court order to examine her by a forensic psychiatric. At first she was sent to the Unawatuna mental hospital and from there to the Angoda hospital. The medical reports certified that she had a mental disorder. She was admitted to the Angoda mental hospital where she was treated for several months.
Following the treatment she was sent back to the prison. There she remembered her past and worried about the two killings. She lost her appetite and every night she was sleepless. But the prison authorities didn't take necessary steps to heal her illness. She was bailed out but the family members, instead of taking her home, took her to a friend's house in Devundara. One of her daughters died during the tsunami. The other children abandoned further education and engage in small jobs.
Her case is still pending at the Hambanthota High Court. Her mental disorder is a defense for her alleged murder of two people. This will help her to avoid severe punishment. At this very moment the gossip still in her village is that she pretends to be mentally ill because of recovering from a severe punishment.
According to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and Related Recommendations,
B. Insane and mentally abnormal prisoners
82(1) Persons who are found to be insane shall not be detained in prisons and arrangements shall be made to remove them to mental institutions as soon as possible.
(2) Prisoners who suffer from other mental diseases or abnormalities shall be observed and treated in specialized institutions under medical management.
(3)During their stay in a prison, such prisoners shall be placed under the special supervision of a medical officer.
(4) The medical or psychiatric service of the penal institutions shall provide for the psychiatric treatment of all other prisoners who are in need of such treatment.
Vagrancy ends in prison
"This crime was committed by her husband because of a family dispute between the parents of her husband and her. From the beginning of the marriage the family life was an unsuccessful one to her. After the birth of her two children her husband had started an affair with another woman."
Chamila is a resident of Biyagama and the youngest in her family. She is 31-years-old and married with two children. Her husband from whom she is now separated is in prison for another case. She looks much older than her age as a result of difficulties she has under gone.
She was sentenced five times under the vagrant's ordinance and this time was for the same offence. She has faced economic difficulties since childhood and went to school up to grade 7. She was sexually abused at the age of 13 years and she had to select the same perpetrator as her husband.
This crime was committed by her husband because of a family dispute between the parents of her husband and her. From the beginning of the marriage the family life was an unsuccessful one to her. After the birth of her two children her husband had started an affair with another woman. He had brought this woman to their own house where he used to take drugs. He engaged in small business like selling fish but did not support Chamila or the two children.
Because of her husband's illicit love affair in front of her own eyes and economic difficulties she was mentally ill. She was admitted to Angoda mental hospital and treated there for three months. She recovered and returned home. At this time she was forced to find a job by the economic difficulties and providing the necessities of her two children.
One of her relatives found a job for her at the free trade zone in Biyagama. Her monthly allowance was Rs.24000/=. At this time she too was addicted to drugs. It was said that she was addicted to drugs because her husband brought them home and he too was a drug addict as mentioned earlier. She saved Rs.12 00 000/= from her job which she was worked for four years. She had bought her own house in Colombo using this money. But she needed more money to buy drugs and also eager to collect more money. One of her friends introduced a new job, which was prostitution. She too liked it because it helped her earn more money easily.
She met her clients near the common toilets at Petta bus stand and her earnings per day was between Rs.7000/= to 8000/=. She engaged in this job in a different manner. She intimidated weaker clients and robbed their money and valued belongings and also refused sexual intercourse with them. When a client was aggressive and more powerful she used to have sexual intercourse which she did in a safer manner using condoms. She never had any of the sexually transmitted diseases although she worked as a prostitute for seven years. She was well aware of these sexually transmitted diseases.
But she was punished by the law several times. One time she was rehabilitated in the women's detention house. She had to be in the police stations and courts several times. Now she was in the prison for the same offence under the vagrant's ordinance. But her mother and two children are in a house at Colombo which was bought by her and her two children are studying in two leading schools in Colombo.
In prison she is a member of the outside (Eliya) party and does cleaning and sweeping in the garden and carries heavy goods.
However, "It shall be the duty of all Prison Officers, without exception, to treat the prisoners with kindness and humanity, to inform the Jailor at his next visit of any prisoner who desires to see him."(Sri Lanka Law Report 40 Vol 1 of 2005)
Nilmini's Story: Choice of Husband
"She has faced various difficulties at the prison. Nobody cared for her because of the nature of her offence and her old age. She had to do hard work at the houses of prison officers. The poor conditions at the prison including overcrowding, sanitation, food and water make her life even harder and vulnerable."
Nilmini a resident of Elpitiya is a 38-year-old mother of two. She studied up to grade three at school and worked in a tea estate in the same area where she was born. She knew the importance of a job very early in life because of economic difficulties which were faced by her family. She was married to a man who worked in the same estate and once sexually abused her when she was young. He was drunk and treated her cruelly.
Every cent she had earned went to buy alcohol for her husband. Day by day her situation turned steadily worse. When she was unable to give her husband money he made her a proposal to earn money. He wanted to sell her body to other men. According to her he did this because of his drunkenness and cruelty.
When she disagreed he beat and cut her with a knife. The scars caused as result of this inhuman assault by a knife still appear under her stomach, buttocks, and one hand. As the injuries were grave she was treated in hospital and her husband was arrested but later he was released on bail. After her recovery she had to live with him under the same roof. As on earlier occasions he had beaten her and made the old proposal which was selling her body to other men to earn money. At the end she agreed because there was no other alternative.
His habit was to bring his wife to Colombo from Elpitiya daily. He himself found clients and sold her to them. He had also taken her to lodges in Colombo. He was waiting until she came outside and collected money from the clients. If there was more time he found other clients to her wife. At the end of the day he collected amount of money between Rs.2000/= to Rs.4000/= and went home with her. He never gave a cent to his wife. This money all went to buy alcohol. Under the vagrants ordinance she was in prison for ten times for the same offence for two years period. At no time did her husband try to release her on bail, pay the fine, or hire a lawyer. So the end result was that she would end in prison in every time she was arrested by the police.
During this time she didn't get any sexually transmitted diseases because she safely used condoms which she had taken from health clinics. She said she will go to the same house after the sentence because there was no other place to go. She didn't have any faith with her husband and she hates him. She says the situation has aroused that what will happen to end of her life.
She has faced various difficulties at the prison. Nobody cared for her because of the nature of her offence and her old age. She had to do hard work at the houses of prison officers. The poor conditions at the prison including overcrowding, sanitation, food and water make her life even harder and vulnerable.
"Being sent to prison is punishment per se. The prison itself is not for continuing punishment. The prison is the last place for crime prevention and correction."
"I DARE!" KIRAN BEDI A Biography.
Anulawathi's Story: Inefficiency of Government Analyst
"After she returned to Sri Lanka the police arrested her husband and remanded him. He is in the male ward in the same prison. A week after her husband's arrest she too was arrested on fabricated charges of possession of drugs."
Anulawathi is a 47-year-old grandmother with two grand children from Bokundara. Now she is a pre trial detainee at the women's ward in a Colombo prison where she has been for more than two years now.
According to Anulawathi her husband was a drug addict and also engaged in the drug business. Anulawathi had various family problems with her husband who had affairs with other women. He often quarreled at home. Anulawathi went Dubai to work in a hospital as a cleaner.
After she returned to Sri Lanka the police arrested her husband and remanded him. He is in the male ward in the same prison. A week after her husband's arrest she too was arrested on fabricated charges of possession of drugs.
As earlier mentioned both of her adult children got married and had babies. Her daughter Manel wanted her mother released as soon as possible but her children did not say anything about the release of their father.
The family has faced severe economic hardships after the arrest of their, parents especially the mother. The two children went to see Anulawathi once in three months. According to Manel if her mother is released then it will be a great relief for them.
Every court hearing of the case is postponed and Anulawathi was remanded for 14 days again and again because of the delay in the government analyst's report. Now this has been going on for more than two years. The court has reminded more than 18 times to the Government Analyst Department to submit the report. Anulawathi bail depends on the report of the Analyst. Justice delayed is justice denied. The Government Analyst is responsible for this denial of justice to Anulawathi.
The Government Analyst's Department was established in 1904 and is the central government laboratory. The department consists of two divisions, the Food Science and the Forensic Science. Food science division provides services towards public health. On the other hand Forensic Science division provides services mainly to law enforcement authorities in the area of crime investigation. In both divisions, there are specially trained scientists for the examination and analysis of samples forwarded by police, law court and other relevant institutes in the country.
Kumari's Story; Separation of Prisoners
Kumari is a 23 years old mother of one child. She was in remand prison along with her one year and eight month old baby girl. They have been in the prison for more than a year now. The child is being kept with pre-trial detainees and convicted felons including suspected terrorists.
Kumari lost her mother when she was a child. Her father married again but Kumari did not get on with her step mother. She started a love affair with a man who was an army deserter and who drove a trishaw and later married him.
Due to the economic difficulties they were facing they both engaged in the drug business. The police arrested her husband and remanded him following which Kumari ceased her involvement with drugs. However, three weeks after her husband's arrest she too was arrested by the police on fabricated charges of selling 10mg of heroin.
A young lawyer appeared for her without charge and she was given bail. Her husband had already been released but had no interest in either Kumari of the child. Kumari was unable to pay the cash bail of Rs.15, 000/= and could find nobody for the two surety bails.
These are the statistics of prisoners in a women's ward in one of the Colombo prisons on 1st September 2010:
Convicted – 146
Suspects – 344
Sentence of Death Penalty – 04
Appeal – 31
LTTE – Convicted- 02
Total – 530
Children – Males – 13: Female -16
According to the Legislative Enactments of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka VOL 111 CHAPTER 31-67
Discipline of Prisoners
The requisitions of this Ordinance with respect to the separation of prisoners are as follows;-
Males shall be separated from females
Juvenile prisoners whenever it is practicable, shall be separated from adults
Convicted prisoners whenever it is practicable shall be separated from unconvicted
Civil prisoners whenever it is practicable shall be separated from criminal prisoners
Prisoners committed for contempt of court or for the non- payment of any fine or penalty or of money due upon any estreated recognizance or for want of securities shall whenever it is practicable be separated from other criminal prisoners.
According to the UN "Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and Related Recommendations"
8. The different categories of prisoners shall be kept in separate institutions or parts of institutions taking account of their sex, age, criminal record, the legal reason for their detention and the necessities of their treatment.
Nalani's Story: Removing Lice
" In an interview she said that when she was taken into the prison she was wearing a white saree. A female prison officer forced her to change it saying it was not suitable dress for a prison. The conditions in the prison were unbearable and awesome. There were more than 40 women including the convicted, pre trial detainees and infants. For all of them there were only three toilets. Some of the female prison officers use to assault the prisoners. They also used these inmates to remove lice from their heads and comb their hair."
Nalani is a 58-year-old mother of five children from the southern part of Sri Lanka. On 13 April this year at around 8.30pm several criminals had entered her house forcefully and robbed her of her belongings including jewels, four mobile phones, and a camera.
These criminals assaulted both her and her family members before running away. In self defence she threw acid at her attackers. When she complained about this incident to the police she was remanded because of the incident of throwing acid. She was released on bail on 19 May 2010.
In an interview she said that when she was taken into the prison she was wearing a white saree. A female prison officer forced her to change it saying it was not suitable dress for a prison. The conditions in the prison were unbearable and awesome. There were more than 40 women including the convicted, pre trial detainees and infants. For all of them there were only three toilets. Some of the female prison officers use to assault the prisoners. They also used these inmates to remove lice from their heads and comb their hair.
The prison welfare society had donated some sewing machines to the women's ward but they used to sew dresses for the prison officers although the main purpose of the donation was to develop the sewing skills detainees.
Visitors were used to bring things like milk packets and soap. Some of the prison officials confiscated them and handed them out to their favorites. These female officers forced inmates, including pregnant and mothers of infants, to work.
At one night someone touched Nalani's leg while she was sleeping. She switched on the light and caught the woman. Nalini complained of this incident to a prison official but no action was taken. Nalini had told this to her family members and they complained to the prison authorities. As a result of this the authorities reprimanded the female prison officer.
There were only two or three bad female officers in the women's ward. The others were good. If they were to transfer the corrupt ones then it would be good for the entire prison.
Nalini gave this interview with the intention of making a change in the prison system so that future prisoners might be treated as human beings.
Considering the Prisons Ordinance and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by the first U N Congress, Prison Officers are bound not only to perform such duties for the purpose of preserving discipline and enforcing diligence, cleanliness, order and conformity to the rules of the prison, but also to treat the prisoners with kindness and humanity. (SL LR 40 Vol 1 of 2005)
Susani's Story: Ignorance of Law
"When she was eleven Susani's mother was imprisoned for selling drugs and she was placed in the care of her grandmother. At that time a friend of her father who was 23-years-old was hiding in their house because the police were looking for him because of an alleged murder. This man was interested in Susani who did now like or trust him; she therefore ignored him completely. One day while Susani was in alone at Bellekkade junction in Ratmalana this young man came by in a van and abducted her."
Susani is a resident of Narahenpita. When she was a child her mother abandoned her and her father to live with another man. Both her parents were imprisoned on several occasions for various crimes which included drug peddling and robberies. Thus, Susani's childhood memories of her parents are not pleasant.
When she was eleven Susani's mother was imprisoned for selling drugs and she was placed in the care of her grandmother. At that time a friend of her father who was 23-years-old was hiding in their house because the police were looking for him because of an alleged murder. This man was interested in Susani who did now like or trust him; she therefore ignored him completely. One day while Susani was in alone at Bellekkade junction in Ratmalana this young man came by in a van and abducted her.
This man kept Susani in an abandoned house and raped her. However she managed to escape and made her way to her grandmother's house. According to Susani, under the guidance of her grandmother they lodged a complaint with the police. This case is still being heard in the Mount Lavinia court.
Susani went to school up to grade 11 under severe economic difficulties. Being the oldest of six children, after her mother was separated from her father and was imprisoned the burden of Susani and other children lay on the shoulder of her old grandmother, so Susani stopped her schooling.
After her mother was imprisoned, her father was sentenced to capital punishment and also imprisoned. It was due to this grave situation that Susani went in search of a job. With the help of a neighborhood she engaged in prostitution which was quite lucrative income because of her younger age. Her charge for one customer was Rs.3000/= and per day it was more than Rs.10000/=. She reached her customers through her mobile phone. This income fulfilled the needs, not only of her younger brothers and sisters but the entire family. She pleased every customer who came to her and fortunately, never had a sexually transmitted disease.
After sometime she found a young man who was willing to marry her. He loved her and their marriage was registered. She stopped engaging in prostitution after listening to her husband and it was at this time that her mother came home having been released from jail.
One day she was arrested by the police while she was sitting in a restaurant with her husband. She was charged with vagrancy and pleaded guilty because of her ignorance of the law. She simply followed the advice of the police.
Now she is a complainant of two lawsuits; one is about abduction case that was mentioned earlier and the other was about her father's suspicious death at the prison. Despite the hardships she has experienced Susani still looks like a child. At the next court hearing she is willing to plead guilty and fly home although she had no earlier offences.
"The accused does not have previous convictions, he surrendered to the police; he pleaded guilty on the first date of trial; he offered compensation to the aggrieved party; these amply demonstrate the mitigatory factors." (Kumara v. The Attorney General)
"No offender should be confined to in a prison unless there is no alternative available for the protection of the community and to reform the individual." (Kumara v. The Attorney General)
The Story of Dotee's Daughter: Filth in Detention
Arukgoda Kankanamge Dotee is a 50-year-old mother from Kalutara South. Fourteen years ago her husband died and her son, a soldier in the Sri Lankan army was killed. Her only daughter, Samitha Madawi (17) is a school student.
On 26 March, 2010, Andaradige Don Priyankara, a clerk of the Kalutara High Court and two other persons abducted this girl and detained her until 11 April during which time she was raped. Her mother complained to the police but, as is usual, no action was taken. Finally the alleged perpetrators presented themselves to the police on the 11th. The police then recorded a statement from this child victim in front of the alleged rapist, Priyankara. Under intimidation she told the police that she had had a love affair with him and as a result she willingly accompanied him.
The case was heard in the Magistrate Court the next day and her mother, Dotee, asked for the custody of her daughter. However, the probation officer with the help of police officers attached to the child and women bureau in the police asked that she be put her under the custody of a detention centre and the Magistrate ordered her to be detained in a Detention centre.
At the detention centre she was sexually harassed by some of the other detainees. They forced her undress and also invited her to sleep with them. They forced her to listen to and explain the meanings of filthy words. They also injured both of ears using pins. Samitha underwent severe mental and physical torture
Her mother Dotee complained to the relevant authorities and an Attorney at Law appeared before the court and explained the matter. The Magistrate ordered Samitha to be handed over to the custody of Dotee and also ordered an examination by a Judicial Medical Officer. The Magistrate also sent a complaint to the Assistant Superintendent of Police.
Dotee admitted her child to a Government hospital where she was treated for four days. The JMO refrained from examining her ear wounds saying that only the other sexual matter was relevant. When Dotee complained about this to the Child and Women Bureau at the police station she was advised not to take these matters further it was an additional burden to give evidence in courts both to the police and the detention centre. However, as a result of Dotee's continued protests they accepted the complaint and recorded a statement from her child. After that her daughter was examined by a forensic psychiatrist of the Colombo General hospital who ruled that she needed further treatment.
The child was in this detention centre for fourteen days. Her mother Dotee has filed a fundamental rights (FR) application bearing number SC/FR 635/2010. This same detention centre is also a respondent in this FR case. A case bearing number BR 1500/2010 was too filed in the Magistrate Court against the alleged perpetrator, a clerk of the Kalutara High Court who has now been interdicted
Hansi's Story; Drug or Vagrancy
Over the coming months she faced sexual violence in this place. On some days she had to please 10 to 15 customers per day as, due to her young age, she attracted a lot of attention from the customers. When she was not engaged in pleasing the customers she was locked in a room to prevent her from running away.
Hansi is a 19-year-old girl from Upper Kandegama, Punewa. Her separated remarried and she spent her childhood with her grandmother under very severe economic difficulties. She went to school up to grade 11 following which she started work at a garment factory. It was there that she started a love affair with a boy. She came to know he was a married man only after lost her virginity to him.
After that she felt difficult to live in her village because of the shame she bore. She met an older lady who became friendly. This lady promised that she would find Hansi a job in a garment factory in Colombo. They travelled to Colombo together and the lady brought her to a guest house called Nalin in Kiribathgoda. It was only after their arrival that Hansi discovered she had been sold into sexual slavery and prostitution.
Over the coming months she faced sexual violence in this place. On some days she had to please 10 to 15 customers per day as, due to her young age, she attracted a lot of attention from the customers. When she was not engaged in pleasing the customers she was locked in a room to prevent her from running away.
Hansi decided to escape and by pretending to be ill she was able to convince her captors to allow her to see a doctor. She was able to run and hide and then sought out the house of a friend where she hoped to take shelter. However, she had not seen her friend from some years and did not know what the lady did for a living. After it was too late Hansi found out that her friend was involved in the drug business and she too sold her as a prostitute.
This 'friend' usually brought Hansi to Kirulapana junction to find customers. She had to please middle class men who came in cars for Rs.8000 to Rs.10000 per day. Hansi herself received only Rs.2000 to Rs.2500 from this sum of money.
After two weeks both she and her friend were arrested by the Wellawatta police while they were on the road side in front of her friend's house. At the police station policemen asked her what which charges she preferred, drugs peddling or vagrancy and she chose vagrancy. Then the police advised her to plead guilty because then she was free to go home after paying a fine. She was remanded and nobody from her family came to see her. The sad truth is there that there was nobody to come.
On 26 August, 2010 her case came up before the Magistrate. After considering the medical reports on the sexually transmitted diseases and the fact that there were no previous convictions she was freed for a Rs.100/= fine and three months imprisonment suspended for five years.
|05:03 AM Thursday October 21st, 2010|