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    » 06/24/2010, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    Jaffna, where women weep

    Melani Manel Perera

    The civil war has widowed tens of thousands of women in Jaffna, their husbands, civilian victims of the conflict. The women have to cope with an unhelpful government and social prejudice in Tamil society. Private groups provide aid so that they can regain their dignity. Our correspondent continues her reports on the aftermath of the war.
    Jaffna (AsiaNews) – Tens of thousands of women lost their husbands, innocent victims of the civil war. The government however appears indifferent to their fate, and even Tamil society is keen on marginalising them. The correspondent of AsiaNews continues to cover the aftermath of the long and disastrous civil war.

    Anyone who visits Jaffna for pleasure is in for an agreeable time these days. The Jaffna Peninsula is a pretty place, and is slowly modernising, both in the city of Jaffna and along the A9 Roadway. Roads, railway lines and bridges are being fixed. Sites like the Nagadeepa Viharaya Buddhist Temple are increasingly popular. Everything is beautiful.

    However, anyone interested in knowing know how people live will find a different story. In Jaffna, the civil war between the Sri Lankan army and Tiger Tamil rebels has left so many women without husbands. The government and public institutions have no plan to help or protect them. Often, these women have four or even five children, to be raises on their own, doing odd jobs. The children sometimes go hungry. Only private groups provide some help in finding jobs for them.

    Subajini Thurairajah, coordinator of the Women Cultural Centre (WCC), told AsiaNews that on Jaffna Peninsula there are about 26,300 widows, and that many tens of thousands more can be found in the northern and eastern provinces, especially Tamil and Muslim.

    Many widows have had “troubles” with Sri Lankan soldiers, with some people suggesting they “get married,” Thurairajah said. However, soldiers who are temporarily stationed in the area just want “to have fun”. Many locals are upset that, with so many women without a man, the government does not issue orders to Sinhalese soldiers to respect them and refrain from taking advantage of their situation of need.

    “These widows are still living the trauma of the cruel events of the war, especially the horrible moment when their husbands died, often before their eyes. Some do not know how to tell the children that their beloved father is no more. It is hard to tell children that their father died hit by a nameless bomb, without rhyme or reason.”

    Only women who lost their husbands before 2008 were given a death certificate, which was denied to the others.

    Making matters worse is a certain prejudice widows suffer from within Tamil society, for they are seen as bearers of bad luck. Women who lost their husbands are not invited to happy occasions and upper caste Tamils avoid and exclude them.

    “We do not like this pattern,” the activist said. Instead, “we want to help these women. We must help them develop a different outlook to life so that they can find a place for themselves in society. We must give them greater dignity as women and mothers.”

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    See also

    14/12/2011 SRI LANKA
    Tamil refugees and war widows in militarised Jaffna
    Almost three since the end of the civil war, the northern peninsula has one one soldier for every 11 civilians, that is 40-50,000 troops out of a population of 600,000. About 39,000 war widows and 200,000 internally displaced people are still waiting. Tamils too are waiting for the government to provide housing, jobs, land and aid.

    03/08/2011 SRI LANKA
    The central government charged with attack on Tamil journalist
    Protests over beating of Ganasundaram hospitalized in a serious condition, but also an invitation to Rajapaksa government to respect the Tamil victory in recent elections. The harsh accusations of participants.

    03/07/2009 SRI LANKA
    Staff at Jaffna’s main newspaper receive death threats
    An unknown group calling itself the Tamil United Force to Safeguard the Country tells the Northern Province’s main newspaper to close down. The newspaper has been critical of the main Tamil parties backing President Rajapaksa.

    19/04/2007 SRI LANKA – VATICAN
    Jaffna Church tells Pope that human rights no longer guaranteed in its region
    The Jaffna Commission for Justice and Peace writes to the Pope on the eve of his meeting with President Rajapakse, asking him to urge the Sri Lankan leader to respect the 2002 cease-fire, investigate local disappearances, and re-open routes to allow delivery of humanitarian aid. Local Catholics have doubts and question motives for the visit. Let us hope it will “contribute to peace,” says Nuncio Zenari.

    22/07/2013 SRI LANKA
    Bishop of Jaffna tells military to return land to the Tamil
    In the Northern Province, the army continues a policy of forced evictions, unmoved by protests from the local population. Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam files a petition with the country's Court of Appeal of the country.



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