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Silence in the Courts Empty Silence in the Courts

Thu Jan 07, 2016 3:28 pm
Message reputation : 100% (1 vote)
As I watched “Silence in the Courts“, a documentary movie by award-winning Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage aired at the  University of Ottawa Human Rights Film Festival on 3rd December 2015, the narrative was all too familiar – the powerful man and the powerless woman – showing man’s unchecked reptilian indulgence for power, pleasure and to procreate, being played out.  In this case, if not for a couple of more enlightened men who believed the woman’s story enough to share it with the world, this too would have gone unnoticed like many other violations and crimes that some men in power commit with impunity.

“Silence in the Courts” was a part of a series of international films highlighting compelling human rights issues focusing on the theme of violence against women.

This film is about two women from rural Sri Lanka, sexually abused by a Judge nearly two decades ago who try in vain to seek justice.  They were assertive to report the crimes, even as they were stigmatised by their own community.  However, their plea is ignored and subverted by the country’s highest legal authorities including the Attorney General who later became Chief Justice – journalist and publisher of Ravaya, Victor Ivan begins to write in-depth stories highlighting their plight.  No other media covered the story and Victor Ivan is even ridiculed for his efforts.

The women have no recourse until finally, thanks to Ivan and a human rights lawyer, some justice is meted to the perpetrator.  The Judge is subjected to an internal inquiry and interdicted with pay.  The story ends there for the women, who feel justice was denied as they did not have the means to have their rights as a citizen recognised.

The film traces stories of these hapless women, the brave journalist and the committed human rights lawyer, through court records and articles, to uncover this shocking miscarriage of justice and how the powerful collude to cover up for each other’s crimes.

Prasanna Vithanage was at the screening for a conversation with the audience.  When asked why he chose to make this documentary – he said, “I  have a keen interest in human rights and this narrative is symbolic of the powerful acting with impunity in many facets of Sri Lankan society, which has shameful repercussions for the country”.  He trusts the film will bring this topic to the surface for reflection, conversations and for everyone – parents, educators, politicians and government – to take action, to make things different in Sri Lanka and most of all, in this case – bring justice for the women.


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