Image courtesy News First

The recent gang rape  and murder of a school girl in Jaffna has, within the few days, triggered many public reports in newspapers and elsewhere, raised many issues including the Code of Professional Practice for journalism; national reconciliation; the death penalty; public demonstrations in Jaffna and Colombo; judicial reforms in relation to such atrocities; brought together people of diverse ethnicity and social backgrounds; a visit by the President Sirisena to Jaffna and a meeting of the President together with Justice Wignaswaran, Chief Minister of the North and Deputy Minister Vijayakala Maheshwaran to the family of the victim.

The concern is not only with this case but also with numerous others, many of which are covered up in collusion between the perpetrators and the authorities and, sometimes, the concerned family. Happily, President Sirisena has promised that full justice will be done in this case through a special court that will also hear other cases of this kind to ensure maximum punishment for the perpetrators as quickly as possible. The legal, social and political implications arising from this case are very positive and most welcome, though all of this will not compensate the family of the victim for their terrible loss.

It is sad that though the impact of this case is exceptional, such cases are not only as common in this country as in many other parts of the world, but are also treated less seriously than appropriate. The reforms mentioned by the President are most welcome, but much more needs to be done to make our streets, schools, workplaces, other institutions and even our homes and neighbourhoods more secure for children and women. This should surely be high up on any reform agenda.