The Alliance Development Trust (ADT) conducted an awareness seminar on the negative impacts of child marriages, statutory rape and sexual abuse at the District Secretariat of Jaffna on 11 August 2017. The seminar which was held for 62 government officials and community leaders, included sessions by Mr. Stanislaus Celestine, Criminal Defence Lawyer and Dr. Thirumagal Sivanshankar, Registrar of Community Medicine – Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jaffna. The main purpose of the awareness seminar was to empower the government officials to minimise the current dilemma of child marriages and marital rape in Jaffna. There is a great concern for the welfare of children as the Jaffna Province records a high number of incidents of early marriage and statutory rape of girl children.
Mr. Celestine in his session covered the legal aspects of early child marriage, marital rape and sexual abuse including the minimum age for marriage under the General Law, Muslim Law, Kandyan Law and the Thesawalamai law and on punishment for perpetrators. Dr. Thirumagal spoke about the medical aspects of teen pregnancies and rape. Both sessions also spoke on the causes for early marriages and the emotional, physical, psychosocial and economic consequences child marriage and rape can have on the girl child and her offspring. These sessions also stressed that social issues such as poverty, lack of formal education and gender inequality contribute towards this situation of concern.
Raviraj of the Island South Divisional Secretariat of Jaffna was glad that he attended this seminar. “In my division, there have been many incidents of statutory rape” he said, explaining how youth seeking work in this division often build relationships with young female students in the areas under his purview, which sometimes result in incidents of statutory rape. “This was a very interesting seminar. As we are engaging in social work we don’t have much knowledge on medical aspects of teenage pregnancies” said Raviraj, explaining that he would use the information he received in the various awareness programmes he conducts in his division.