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This tropical South Asian island situated off the southern tip of India mainly has flat and rolling land, with mountains in the south.The country achieved independence in 1948, but endured a 25 year civil war between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil separatists, which ended in 2009 after significant human rights violations by both sides. The legacy of the war persists, including discrimination towards minorities and the recruitment of children as soldiers, as well as enduring problems of domestic violence, corporal punishment and child sex tourism.
Sri Lanka is an island off the southern tip of India in South Asia. The land is largely flat and rolling, with mountains in the south central interior. The capital city is Colombo.
Population and Language
More than 20 million people inhabit Sri Lanka. The official language is Sinhala which is spoken by 74 per cent of the population, although Tamil, spoken by 18 per cent, is also a national language. English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10 per cent of the population.
The country is mainly made up of the following ethnic groups: Sinhalese (73.8 per cent), Sri Lankan Moors (7.2 per cent), Indian Tamil (4.6 per cent), and Sri Lankan Tamil (3.9 per cent).
History and Politics
Sri Lanka is a republic, having achieved independence from the UK on 4 February 1948, and is governed by a presidential, representative democracy. President Mahinda Rajapaksa won a landslide victory in January 2010 when he called early elections soon after declaring victory in a 25-year war with the Tamil Tiger separatists. Later in the year, MPs passed a constitutional amendment allowing him to stand for unlimited terms in office. The President has also faced criticism for events at the end of the Tamil Tiger war, during which thousands of civilians were killed as troops battled to crush the rebels.
Sri Lanka has a mixed legal system of Roman-Dutch civil law, English common law, and Jaffna Tamil customary law.
Sri Lanka’s economy is based around tourism, tea export, apparel, textile, rice production and other agricultural products.
Media and Civil Society
There are both state-run and private media organisations, divided along linguistic and ethnic lines, although many of the main broadcasters and publications are state-owned, including two major TV stations, radio networks and newspapers.At the height of the civil war the country was described as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. In late 2008, a grouping of international media freedom groups noted a deteriorating situation, marked by "murders, attacks, abductions, intimidation and harassment of the media". Reporters Without Borders said the media came under pressure from the authorities, while the Tamil Tigers "allow no dissident voices" in the areas which they controlled.
Human rights and children's rights
The civil war, which ended in May 2009 with the government defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), has been the subject of much concern among human rights activists. There were calls from national and international organisations and media for an independent investigation into alleged war atrocities, but the government responded by threatening journalists and civil society activists, effectively curtailing public debate and establishing its own commission of inquiry with a severely limited mandate.
Senior government officials have repeatedly stated that no civilians were killed by Sri Lankan armed forces during the final months of the fighting, despite overwhelming evidence reported by Human Rights Watch and others that government forces frequently fired artillery into civilian areas, including the government-declared "no fire zone" and hospitals.
Sri Lanka ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 12 July 1991. It ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 08 September 2000, and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography on 22 September 2006. The country is considered to be a destination for child sex tourism.
- BBC: Sri Lanka Country Profile
- Human Rights Watch, "Sri Lanka: Military Conference to Whitewash War Crimes", 23 May 2011
- Indexmundi.com: Sri Lanka
- World Bank Sri Lanka Country Profile
- UNICEF Sri Lanka Country Profile
- Population: 21,223,600 (UNDP, 2012)
- Population under 18: 6,183,000 (UNICEF, 2011)
- Number of internet users: 3,222,200 (15% of the population) (Internet World Stats, 2012)
- Human Development Index ranking: 92 (UNDP, 2012)
- Happy Planet Index ranking: 35 (Happy Planet Countries: Sri Lanka, 2012)