Feature Article

‘Sexist cartoons on Tamil Nadu CM reflect Sinhala patriarchal attitude to Tamil women’

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 11 September 2012, 00:03 GMT]
In the garb of criticizing protests in Tamil Nadu against visiting Sri Lankan pilgrims, Lakbima, a mainstream Sinhala daily published two cartoons on Sunday portraying the Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa in a derogatory manner. The libellous cartoons, which targeted Ms. Jayalalitha on the basis of her status as a woman political leader, also targeted the late MGR, former Tamil Nadu CM and popular Tamil cinema icon, and the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “The sexist nature of these cartoons on a political leader of Tamil Nadu published in a major Sinhala newspaper reflect the patriarchal attitude of the Sinhala state machinery towards Tamil women in general,” commented a feminist working with war survivors in Vanni adding that this attitude manifested itself as genocide-intended sexual violence against Eezham Tamil women by the occupying Sinhala forces in the Tamil homeland.

“The cartoons do not just demean Selvi Jayalalithaa as a political leader, they also objectify and ridicule her gender for the sole reason that she is a Tamil woman,” she further said.

The attitude of representatives of the Sinhala ruling class towards Tamil women can be observed through some disparaging remarks made by Sinhalese leaders and bureaucrats in the recent past.

"These (the military) are the guys who were winning the war - they could have raped every single woman on the way if they wanted to,” Palitha Kohona, Sri Lankan diplomat and current Permanent Representative of GoSL to the UN, told a newspaper in July 2009 as an argument to deny rape of Tamil women by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA).

Likewise, the ‘Oxford educated’ Sri Lankan bureaucrat Rajiva Wijesinha made light of reports on abuse of Tamil women in the camps in a comment to The Guardian in December 2009, "We received a report that a soldier went into a tent at 11pm and came out at 3am. It could have been sex for pleasure, it could have been sex for favours, or it could have been a discussion on Ancient Greek philosophy, we don't know."

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, to dismiss allegations of sexual assaults that emerged after the execution videos were released by Channel 4, passed sexist remarks on a Tamil war witness from the UK asking “whether she was raped” in an interview to Headlines Today in August 2011.

Similar comments were made by the ‘counterinsurgency expert’ Rohan Gunaratna at a conference in December 2011 on Tamil women who have come out to give evidence of war crimes and genocide.

These cartoons should also be seen in the light of this Sinhala patriarchal mentality that seeks to intimidate Tamil women from taking strong political positions and from exposing the genocidal nature of the oppression they face from the Sri Lankan state, commented the feminist activist from Vanni.

TamilNet refrains from publishing either of the cartoons owing to the profane nature of their contents.


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