A newspaper article titled “Survey reveals Girls raped at their own will” published by Daily Mirror on Thursday, 21 December 2023 has drawn the attention of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus (WPC) of the 9th Parliament of Sri Lanka due to the blatant negligence displayed by the Newspaper, and everyone involved, in publishing this severely faulty piece.
The author of the article and the Attorney-at-Law and Doctor of the Kandy National Hospital who provided information for the article show an apparent lack of understanding of the crime of statutory rape and “consent”, by stating that 5,055 girl children were raped with their consent.
The legal definition of statutory “rape” in Sri Lanka, as provided for by Section 363 of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act (No. 22 of 1995), states that a man is said to commit “rape” when he “has sexual intercourse with, a woman under circumstances falling under any of the following descriptions— […] (e) with or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age…”
Here, subsection (e) refers to the statutory rape of minors where consent is irrelevant to proving rape. In the case of the survey referred to in the article, all respondents were legally classified as minors, and the legal system presumes that such individuals do not have the legal capacity to make decisions on their own. Minors are considered not to have the cognitive and emotional maturity to fully understand the consequences and implications of their decisions. When an adult is involved, a significant power imbalance exists, whether due to differences in age, experience, or authority. Therefore, until reaching the age of majority, individuals are considered legally unable to provide valid consent for certain activities, which is why the law criminalises sexual activities with a minor, even if the minor appears to give consent. These laws are intended to protect minors from sexual exploitation, irrespective of their willingness to participate.
It is disgraceful that the author of the article demonstrates a lack of empathy towards rape victim-survivors. The article, which erroneously suggests that minors have given consent for such acts, is particularly disturbing as minors lack the legal capacity to do so. It is regrettable to observe the media, a significant influencer of societal views, misleading the public and fostering a culture of victim-blaming rather than offering support to those who have experienced abuse. Therefore, the WPC strongly condemns the Daily Mirror article as fundamentally flawed, negligent, and insensitive towards the victims.