Women activists to petition SC that State has failed in its duty

Combating the grease yaka controversy
By Kumudini Hettiarachchi

In a new twist to the “grease yaka” phenomenon, women activists are planning to petition the Supreme Court this week on the grounds that the State is failing in its duty to protect women from these perpetrators.

“There is a clear dereliction of duty on the part of the State as women are not being protected and the perpetrators -- whoever the grease yakas – are not being brought to book,” said activist Visakha Tillekeratne, stressing that “the net effect is that no action has been taken”.

We are hoping to file public interest litigation, both in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal this week, based on Article 12 of the Constitution which deals with gender, she explained, pointing out that the State is responsible, in no uncertain terms to protect women, alleviate the fear psychosis and bring the perpetrators to book.

The litigation is part of a three-pronged action plan by women’s rights activists in the face of the terror gripping humble villagers in several parts of the country due to the appearances and attacks by yet unidentified people dubbed grease yakas.

The other action will include unique “People’s Hearings” and the lobbying of Parliamentarians of all hues, the Sunday Times learns. Referring to the setting up of “People’s Hearings”, Ms. Tillekeratne stressed that they would comprise juries of eminent and respected people including many professionals. The third action which is already being pursued is the lobbying of Parliamentarians of all parties as this is a national issue.

“We want Parliamentarians to take up the grease yaka issue as part of the proceedings of the Women Parliamentarians’ Select Committee,” said Ms. Tillekeratne, while another activist, Shanthi Sachithanandan, pointed out that in every situation, be it war and conflict, political manoeuvring, workplace issues or even home and family disputes, women are not only the victims but also the scapegoats.

Vulnerable and marginalized women are being targeted, with the euphemism grease yaka being used by all and sundry without dealing with the reality that women are under attack by “unidentified persons”, said a third activist Shiranee Dissanayake. Referring to reports that in many instances the police were unwilling even to take down a complaint, she said that whether it is an act of violence against a woman such as scratching or just hovering near a woman which was an act of harassment, the urgent need was a proper investigation leading to the arrests of the culprits.

Without saying that a woman is attacked by an “unidentified or unknown” person, the attack or harassment is covered in hazy speculation and laughed off by those in authority, Ms. Dissanayake said, while Ms. Sachithanandan echoed the view that this in itself helps to spread fear in the communities.
The areas mainly under attack by the grease yakas are where the minority communities live such as Batticaloa, Jaffna, Mannar, Puttalam and Kalpitiya, as well as the plantation regions, the Sunday Times understands.

Some of these areas have run the gamut of many a trauma such as war and conflict, white vans, paramilitary group threats, another source who declined to be identified said, adding that the tragic grease yaka saga, where men wearing full black or only underwear with grease all over their bodies, was instilling fear because it was an unknown quantity. People just don’t know what is happening and what they are dealing with.

The fear is compounded by the fact that the grease yaka runs to the closest checkpoint and there is inaction on the part of the authorities, another source said. “There is a pattern of these unidentified attackers confronting those with ‘less of a voice’ such as the very poor rural women,” the source said, pointing out that there seems to be only one instance of a professional, a teacher, being attacked.
In the absence of an official statement by the Government and lack of meaningful measures to alleviate anxiety, people are coming to their own conclusions, Ms. Tillekeratne said, urging that women should not be used as a tool.

The call of these activists is simple but urgent. Deal with the situation, reassure the people and capture the grease yakas who are playing havoc with the rural poor.

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