Sep 07, 2017

Murder of transvestite in Dambulla: Media and “ignorance” Featured

The media focussed its attention on the murder of a transvestite near the private van stand in Dambulla last Tuesday (05).

Although there were signs of a blow to the back of his head, there was no damage to his skull, according to the Matale district JMO B.L. Vaidyaratne.

He said parts of the body had been sent for analysis and until the investigations are concluded, a definite verdict cannot be issued regarding the cause of death.
Dr. Vaidyaratne further stated that there were no visible wounds on the body of the victim and they had not found any signs of other diseases either.

However, according to Bhoomi Harendran of the ‘Young Out There’ organisation, although the victim was publicly known as a transvestite, he was actively involved in educating the transvestite community on HIV.

“She has played a pivotal role as a Peer Educator on HIV/Aids in the peer education system, where she shared her knowledge among friends and others,” explained Harendran.

In reporting the killing of this transvestite, many media organisations described the victim as a person who was known to the police as a male during the day and roamed the streets at night dressed as a woman.

However, had he/she been engaged in active education on transvestite health, why was his identity concealed?

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These persons are forced into the sex trade due to financial difficulties, then society asks why they are engaged in the sex trade. This is a very pathetic state of affairs as I see it _ Bhoomi Harendran

“In fact people look at this issue in a very narrow angle. We must understand how difficult it is to live in Sri Lankan society as a transvestite,” said Harendran.

Expressing similar views Professor Mayura Samarakone, Head of the Sri Jayawardenapura University, Social Science unit, he too was unaware of the circumstances and issues of the transgender community.

“For example, there was a young man who joined our course and he presented his educational documents which stated that he had attended a girl’s school. We were perplexed at this point,” Professor Samarakone explained.

“We were unaware as to how we should behave in such a situation, but later we rectified this issue,” he confessed.

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How can society be educated by the media with such an ignorant media culture? Education is gradually eluding us – Prof. Mayura Samarakone

Responsibility of the media:

The Professor expressed his views on the news reports titled “Person dressed in female clothing”. “Today there is no investigative reporting in this country but a popular media culture. Within this frame we find a certain uneducated ignorant nature.”

He said, apart from merely highlighting their ignorance with regard to these transgender persons, the media pays no attention to the issues faced by these transgender persons in our society neither making any effort to educate the public regarding their plight,” he said.

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Concrete object believed to have been used in the murder

“How can the people be educated with this ignorant media culture? That knowledge we seek is gradually eluding our society.”

Meanwhile, transgender activist Bhoomi Harendran said it is no secret as to the number of transvestite sex workers engaged in the sex industry.

“These persons are chased out from their homes at a very young age or they are not given jobs due to their sexual orientation. It is society itself that puts these transgender people into this predicament and they are forced to engage in this sex industry due to the lack of opportunity and financial requirements. Then society in tern question them as to why they are engaged in the sex industry. This is a very degrading situation,” she said.

Pointing out that it is society that pushes these transgender persons into the sex industry, Harendran said Sri Lankan society needs to change their opinions regarding the transgender or gay community in this country and stop the continued harassment against them.

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