7th May 2000
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A view from the hillsMarri-age

The medical profession and the Women's Charter had, for some time, protested against the ages of consent for marriage, especially Kandyan marriages where, hitherto, the age of consent for males was 16, and for females 12. Now, amendments to the Registration of Marriages Act and the Kandyan Law of Marriage and Divorce have increased the age of consent to 18 for both males and females. 

Many doctors in the hills tell me that they are pleased with the amendments. Child marriages, they say, are both physically and mentally wrong, while some preferred to emphasise the "inadvisability" of such marriages. However, some doctors are concerned that the Muslim Law of Marriage is exempted from these amendments, although they do admit that, more and more, couples are now marrying later in life, not earlier. 

"This is the general pattern today," a doctor said. "Career, employment and the need to take gainful advantage of education have created a new social scene in the country. Young people are not rushing into marriage today. Rather, we now have a new scenario with a huge wave of liaisons, couples who seem to be 'testing the water', so to say, staying together, drifting apart, more independent in their view. They take time to tie the knot. It is a healthy sign that they may eventually settle down as husband and wife later in life but this has also given rise to more promiscuity and the sense of freedom to love and leave, and this brings on its own social problems too." 

With this, I learn that the incidence of rape is also on the increase. True, provisions have been made in the Penal Code to counter the increase of rape, but figures for the years 1993 to 1998 are far from comforting. According to police statistics, reported incidents of rape were 385 in 1993, rising to 518 in 1994, to 542 in 1995, to 716 in 1996, to 909 in 1997 and to 1076 in 1998. The figure for 1999 is expected to be over 2000. 

Now, even consent does not make the act of intercourse legal. Under the following, if consent is obtained by threat, intimidation, when the woman is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or when her consent is obtained by pretence or deceit, it is still considered rape. Even intercourse with an estranged wife is termed marital rape if resorted to, without her consent. 

The age limit for statutory rape or intercourse with minors has also been raised from 12 to 16 years and accordingly, with or without consent, all intercourse with a child under 16 is regarded as rape. 

All I can say is that all this has now been brought into the frame because this is no longer the beautiful place we have known it to be. Where has society gone wrong? 

The High Court of Taste Appeal

Kandy flocked to a new High Court where, like moving through a star gate, one enters a world of the finest range of food ever. The Chairman of Devon Restaurant, Dharmadasa Weeraratne declared it open, assisted by Managing Director M.M.P.D. Weeraratne. 

Devon's Food Court, with its pale russet floor and washed magenta walls brought in so many who found an astonishing range of food, both local and international and what is more, a self- service that allowed them to take all they wanted, suited to both appetite and purse. 

This High Court of Taste Appeal spreads to three airy sections on the first floor of Devon Restaurant, with room for 60 and most elegantly arranged. There is little doubt that it will be Kandy's "in place" and is attracting many. From its special street-side entrance to the first floor where a world of fine food awaits you, Devon's have always been the finest exponents of the baker's art in Kandy. 

World Charter of Local Govt.

Kandy Mayor Harindranath Dunuwille is insistent that when it comes to local government, a set of basic services should be universally recognised as the responsiblity of local authorities. Also, specific taxes should be levied in order to finance these services. 

This is what Mayor Dunuwille proposed at the recently concluded meeting of South Asian local government authorities in Mumbai. 

The proposal, accepted and moulded into shape at this meeting, is to be presented as part of the drafting of a World Charter of Local Governments in New York next year, sponsored by the UN. 

Vision sans politics 

A new non-political movement has been launched in Kandy, styled as a national endeavour to stimulate and foster projects and activities that will promote communal harmony, partnership and togetherness. 

The new project is not all that new, actually. The Sri Lanka Vision 2000 programme was established three years ago in Colombo and was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The Kandy movement is actually the first provincial arm and it was convened by former MP, Shelton Ranarajah. The first meeting was chaired by Director of the Centre for Regional Development Studies, C. Suriyakumaran. 

A new vision sans politics! What a wonderful idea!

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