From LTTE cadre to sex worker—Plight of a Sri Lankan Tamil woman
My native place is Vaddukottai in Yarlpanam (Jaffna). In July 1995, we shifted to a church for refuge in Nawali. There were over 500 refugees from nearby regions in the church. On July 9, in the aerial attack, over 125 innocent died before my eyes for the fault of their being Tamils. My two year old brother, who was happily playing around, was blown to pieces. I lost my consciousness at that moment.
I was unconscious for a week in a hospital. To my shock I realized my mother too had died in the attack. I could not understand what crime my young brother had committed.
( The following article is translation of an interview published in Ananda Vikatan, leading Tamil weekly of Tamil Nadu)
Why do you think he became a target?
How long can we allow the young generation of Tamils to be butchered? I felt it was my duty to protect them. I joined the Tamil Eelam Tigers struggle.
How strong and useful was the idea of recruiting women in LTTE fighters’ cadre breaking a tradition of men only in struggle?
In 1985 in the month of Avani (August) formal training in warfare was initiated. From that time, till the end of eelam war, the female cadre acted as a strong foil for LTTE. By involving women in liberation struggle, Prabhakaran brought about a major social revolution. In a land where injustice was being done to women, Prabhakaran managed to end the control over women. He had the same confidence on the women’s wing as the male force. May be he failed in liberation struggle, but he managed women’s freedom in Eelam.
Vidya Rani..a celebrated, valiant fighter for Tamil Eelam till May 2009. Starting from attacking Aanaieravu camp a participant in many daring attacks in Eelam. A fighter till the end of battle at Mullivaikal. A leading female “Tiger” who exemplified women’s bravery.
On the same level of courage as Jhansi ki Rani and Velu Nachiar of Tamil Nadu, lauded in Tamil Eelam, Vidya Rani, caught in the vortex of a tragic life, is today a sex worker.
As a fighter with LTTE, what comes to your mind about Prabhakaran?
He is a big warrior of the century. Starting with a single pistol his struggle to mold the LTTE, he managed to even set up a air force wing. With his death, the fight for Eelam has ended. The tamils feel orphaned now.
She is not telling her tragic story for sympathy .. Like a slap in the face, she reveals the harsh reality and plight of Tamils now in Sri Lanka.
You are now a sex worker?
Yes, but one who has been forced to become one.
What really happened?
When I was in LTTE, I loved and married a colleague Keeran. In four years, we had two children. In the final days of ferocious battle, he was among the 700 who died in Anandapur.
Then I was left alone to manage my kids. I decided to fight. We never thought we would lose the battle. So had no plans for future. After surrendering arms, we came to army controlled areas. I was staying in Vavuniya Menik Farm camp. I got arrested by army investigating panel and my two children were separated from me. I was then taken to Anuradhapura camp. On the first day itself, I was gangraped by army personnel. At least I was raped three times a day.
Right before my eyes, over 50 female fighters were raped repeatedly. Quite a few women committed suicide. For the sake of my children, I suffered the torture.
Those pretty among the detainees were raped by senior officers. Some were assaulted by Sinhala ministers. For being an important leader in the Sodiya female force, I was taunted and joined in assaulting me. It was not just for lust, but a sadistic satisfaction in torturing Tamil women. They were laughing when petrol was poured into women’s private parts after rape as they screamed in pain.
How did you escape the interrogation and torture?
We were freed after some time. On the pretext of rehabilitation, we were taken to Mullaitivu forest. Even as we starved, living among wild animals and snakes with my children was a nightmarish experience. I somehow managed to reach Yarlpanam. From that moment I became a sex worker as there was no other option.
Why do you say, you had to become a sex worker?
Hunger.. yes. There was no one to help us. Those claiming to support the Tamils are only cheaters. Realizing my background, nobody was ready to help. We were treated as outcasts.
In fact, they were even afraid to be seen in our company. How long can I see my kids crying in hunger? There was no other way than to sell my body.
Didn’t you try for a job?
When they were afraid to talk to us, how can I expect a job offer? I even resorted to begging. While I was lying doubled up in hunger, one person invited me to bed. After satisfying himself, he offered us food. A fighter for Tamil Eelam, I became a sex worker from that day.
Who are your customers?
Mostly old people. There were some Sinhala tourists. Some school students used to come but I turned them away.
Didn’t Tamil political outfits help you?
They do only lip service. They virtually act as agents of Sinhala majority.
How about the parties and leaders from Tamil Nadu who support Tamil Eelam? Have they ever offered any help to women like you?
Suddenly her feeble voice gets loud in anger. Leaders who stay in India and claiming sympathy for Tamils in Sri Lanka are dishonest. They are unable to digest the bitter truth that the Eelam battle is over. That’s why they are living in a fool’s paradise, claiming there will be a fresh war for separate Eelam and Prabhakaran will return! When some ask me when I am selling my body to feed my children, when will the next struggle begin, I feel like hitting them with a mop. ( She breaks down and cries).
Indian leaders, please listen to me.. Don’t exploit us and our plight for your own political ends.
At least the next generation should live..Sleep peacefully for a night.. Is it enough if only your children go to school? Those talking of another struggle for Eelam, do you know the pain of war? Are you aware of people fleeing from a spot of shell attack unable to even cremate their parents and children.. or a child sucking a dead mother’s breast..Or a pregnant woman’s stomach ripped in front of her grieving husband.
If you had seen it, then you will never back a war anywhere in the world.
If those you have accused in the interview, call you a prostitute..
She retorts emphatically.. I have only sold my body.. not conscience like them.
( The woman’s name has been changed in her interest)
- Asian Tribune -