Press Releases

OMCT & GJC Report to CAT: Sri Lankan laws condone torture of women and girls


[NEW YORK and GEVENA (OMCT-GJC)] — Tomorrow, the Committee Against Torture (CAT), during its 59th session, will examine Sri Lanka’s fifth State party report. In October, the Global Justice Center (GJC) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) jointly submitted an alternative report focused on how Sri Lankan law violates the Convention Against Torture by banning abortion in most circumstances, and by authorizing rape in certain instances and child marriage.

The joint report highlights how Sri Lanka’s penal code, dating back to 1883 and still enforced today, criminalizes abortion in all cases except when the mother’s life is at risk – even in cases of rape or fetal unviability. As a result, Sri Lankan women are forced to seek clandestine abortion services from unqualified persons in non-sterile places. Sri Lanka’s rape law is also outmoded, as it narrowly defines rape as non-consensual sex, leaving the burden of proof on the victim, contrary to international standards. In 2014, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs proposed a new law that forces rapists to marry their victims. Moreover, the child marriage law that bars marriage below the age of 18 years does not apply to marriages within Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, resulting in a significant number of legal child marriages each year. A recent study showed that some 12 per cent of Sri Lankan women are married before they become adults.

“This means women still cannot decide what to do with their lives and bodies in Sri Lanka – a form of gender-based discrimination leading to acts which amount to ill-treatment,” said Nicole Bürli, OMCT Human Rights Adviser.

The CAT has established that restrictions to abortion access, especially in cases of rape, incest, fetal unviability and where the health of the woman is at risk, can amount to cruel and inhuman treatment. The CAT has routinely expressed concern about the absence of marital rape provisions and repeatedly found that a widespread and high rate of sexual violence in a country violates the Convention. The CAT has also found child marriage is a form of ill-treatment.

“There are significant legislative obstacles to ensuring women and all girls are free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Sri Lanka,” says Akila Radhakrishnan, Legal Director for GJC. “These obstacles have a huge impact on lives of women and girls in Sri Lanka and must be addressed immediately.”

GJC and OMCT in their shadow report, urge the CAT to ask the Sri Lankan Government to repeal the anti-abortion law in the penal code, criminalize all acts of rape, including marital and child rape in all circumstances and absolutely prohibit the marriage of children under 18 years of age.

For more information contact:
Stephanie Olszewski (GJC, New York),
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +1 212 725 6530 ext. 211
Nicole Bürli (OMCT, Geneva), 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  +41 22 809 49 26


Banner photo courtesy of Michael Theis

Tags: Abortion, Sexual Violence & Rape, Press Release, Torture, Discriminatory Legal Systems