The US State Department’s latest travel advisory warns that foreign women should exercise vigilance in Sri Lanka, due to an upswing in sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas.
Updated on May 6, 2013, it states that travellers, especially women, should consider travelling with other people when possible. “Western women continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men,” it warns. “Such harassment can occur anytime or anywhere, but most frequently has taken place in crowded areas such as marketplaces, train stations, buses, public streets and sporting events.”
“The harassment ranges from sexually suggestive or lewd comments to physical advances, and sexual assaults have occurred as well,” it states. “While most victims of sexual assault have been local residents, an upswing in sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas in the southern beaches, underlines the fact, that foreign women should exercise vigilance.”
Newspapers and other sources report ongoing criminal activity around the country, including murder and kidnapping, the notice cites. “Most violent crime occurs within the local community,” it observes. “However, reports of violent crime and sexual assaults directed at foreigners have been increasing in recent months.”
It states that police response to assist victims “can vary from a few minutes to hours, even in tourist areas, and particularly in remote areas. In response to this rise in crime, the Sri Lanka government now requires that all foreign tourists provide their passport information to hotel staff when registering at local hotels and guest houses, so that this data can be used by local law enforcement for the monitoring of foreign tourists,” it elaborates.
The notice makes reference to the killing of British Red Cross worker Khuram Shaikh and the assault on his Russian partner in Tangalle in December 2011. “The Sri Lankan justice system can be slower than in the United States and there are a number of outstanding cases of crimes against foreign nationals, including the murder of the British national noted above, which have yet to be prosecuted,” it informs. It also reveals that street hustlers or “touts” are common around hotels, shopping centres and tourist sites.