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The AWWN received a letter from the Da Bindu Collective recently, appealing for help to a Sri Lankan woman worker who was sexually assaulted on the way back home from her parentsí place. Her ordeal not only had left her a permanent emotional scar, it also affected her physical health tremendously. She has not worked for a period and is facing financial difficulties now. However, she would like to resume working again if given the opportunity to do so. The Da Bindu Collective would like to share what this woman worker had gone through, and hopefully could gather some form of assistance for her to have a fresh start in life again. We also hope that this appeal is able to highlight the plight of this woman worker, and help bring in the assistance that she needs.

A woman worker, Wimala, while returning to her boarding house after a visit to her parentsí place in an evening of December 1993, was forcefully dragged to a threshing place in the paddy field by a thug. Under the threat of a knife, he sexually assaulted her. To stop her from shouting for help, the thug repeatedly slapped and beat her. Before he left her beaten and bruised in the paddy field, he took away her gold pendant which was the only valuable asset Wimala had bought with her hard earned money. She managed to limp back to the boarding

house and the kind owners brought her to the hospital and reported her ordeal to the police. Due to her heavy injuries, Wimala was warded in the hospital for twenty-seven days.

The attacker was subsequently arrested by the police and was brought to court to face robbery and sexual assault charges. However, the court proceedings took three and a half years to finally reach a verdict, and in 1997, the thug was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in imprisonment. Although the occasion should be a joyful one as the thug was given the deserved punishment for his actions, Wimala was not the least rejoiceful. She now faces many other problems because of this ordeal she went through.

Even as the court found the thug guilty, Wimala was not awarded with any forms of compensation and has to pay for all the expenditures involved in the court proceedings. Because of the attack, Wimala feels that she has lost her chastity and is shameful to face her colleagues at her working place. Coupled with other problems, and the emotional and physical trauma she received after the attack, she decided to leave her job of six years. But, she was not given any gratuity for her service and all expenditure incurred during the hospitalisation and court proceedings, left her without much savings. Her husband has also become unemployed and as he is illiterate, he cannot find a job easily. The thug, though was jailed, threatened to ask his friends to kill her.

Thus, Wimala had to leave the village where she was staying . Currently, she is being taken care of by one of her relatives, but is said to be very traumatised by the whole event.

Da Bindu Collective has tried to render some financial help by paying off the expenditure incurred in the court proceedings and other minor expenses. Wimala has expressed the wish to start a small business with her husband in the new village, and wants to begin a new life there. Thus, the organisation has given Wimala US$100 from its own funds, to help her start her own small business. Even though the amount is insufficient to cover the whole cost of starting a small business, Wimala is determined to source for more help so that she can live her life again.

Concerned organisations or individuals can write to the address below for whatever form of help they can render.

Da Bindu Collective 266/A, Weligampitiya Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka

(source : Da Bindu Collective)

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Asian Women Workers Newsletter Vol. 16 No. 4 October 1997