» 06/05/2012, 00.00
Sri Lanka: The courage of Divya, raped at 13 by a neighbor
Melani Manel Perera
The Kandy High Court has sentenced Sandanam Jeevaratnem, 48, to 20 years in prison, the maximum penalty in Sri Lanka for the crime of rape. In 2007, the man abused the girl when she was at home alone. Staff of the Office for Human Rights in Kandy, run by Fr. Nandana Mantunga central to her battle for justice, psychological and legal support.
Kandy (AsiaNews) - A "historic" ruling for Sri Lanka, full of joy "for the courage and determination of Divya" and because "it encourages those who seek justice, to break the silence." With these words, Fr. Nandana Mantunga, director of the human rights of Kandy (Central Province), welcomes a sentence of 20 years in prison for Sandanam Jeevaratnem, a 48 year old man who in 2007 raped Divya (see photo), then thirteen, the daughter of his neighbors. Kandy court Judge Manilal Vaidyathilaka delivered his judgment on May 18, for the payment of a fine of 5 thousand rupees (about 30 euros) and a compensation of 100 thousand rupees (about 613 euros) to victim.
Divya is a Tamil and lives alone with her father, grandmother, uncle, two sisters and a brother in Dankanda Rattota Estate, close to the tea plantations of Matale. Her mother is in Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker. The brutal attack took place on 8 November 2007. The girl was at home alone, because the rest of the family was out to celebrate Deepavali, the "Festival of Light" celebrated by Tamils. At three o'clock in the evening, Jeevaratnem raided the house of Divya totally drunk, finding her alone, the man locked the door and windows, then, forced the girl to drink alcohol, threatening her with a knife. When she began to scream, he stuffed her mouth with a T-shirt and violated her. The teenager lost consciousness.
An hour later, Divya woke up to find her clothes torn and felt a sharp pain in her stomach. On his return, smelling the alcohol her grandmother asked what had happened to her granddaughter: at first, she remained silent out of shame, but a slap in the face from her uncle led her to tell the truth. The family immediately took her to the Rattota police station. Here, regardless of the girl's condition, the agents wanted to question her with her rapist, who denied the episode.
The day after the attack, Divya was admitted to hospital in Matale, where she remained until 14 November. After the doctor's check up, which confirmed the rape, she returned to the Rattota police on November 16, to formalize the complaint.
"From that moment - Fr. Manatunga explains to AsiaNews - Divya was brought to my office, where personnel were involved in a recovery therapy and her protection. She was housed in one of our facilities in Ampitya and studied in our schools. Last December, she successfully passed the half-term exams. "
Luckily for Divya, her case came early to the Kandy High Court, on 5 September 2011 on charges of rape against Jeevaratnem. The trial began April 19, 2012 and ended April 26. "Although the accused has always denied having committed the crime - said the priest - he never provided an alibi. Now that the case is closed, I want to thank our lawyers, nuns, teachers and all those who provided protection, support and medical and psychological assistance to Divya in recent years. Her victory is a victory for the entire community. "
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