Posted on September 19th, 2022


UGC conducted a study titled ‘Ragging, Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Sri Lankan University System’ in 2018.  The study was done in eight universities. Nearly 15000 students were interviewed and 1551 staff responses were obtained. The study had certain limitations, such as a short time given for the questionnaires, small number of interviews but yielded valuable data.

The UGC reported that more than half of the sample (51.1%) were subjected to verbal harassments, about 34.3 % of students were subjected to psychological violence, about 23.8% to physical abuse and about 16.6 % were subjected to sexual harassments during ragging.

Almost half of the respondents at each of the eight campuses polled said they had been ragged and harassed. The ragging mostly consisted of verbal abuse, but also included physical and sexual harassment said UGC report.

According to the UGC sample survey the   Arts Faculty experienced the most ragging. 45%   those doing Arts experienced ragging, followed by Management 40%, Science 38%, Medical 31% and Engineering 15. %

Students had reported multiple forms of harassment. “Soft” ragging such as eating together, reciting sexually explicit poems, and watching pornographic material for extended periods of time. Hard ragging included sleep deprivation, being forced to remain in uncomfortable physical positions for extended periods of time, physical assault, vigorous exercise, and sexually explicit acts.

Undergraduates made no distinction between soft and hard ragging. It was all hard for them. They found both types of ragging unpleasant and frightening. They carry out all sorts of sexual attacks on us. You have to obey otherwise you will be subject to much worse rags, said undergrads.

 There was also control. Female undergrads had to walk looking down. They had to wear fresher dress for the whole year. Hostel dress for men is sarong and shirt but without underwear.

The majority of the freshers are scared and submit as commanded by the seniors without complaint thinking that this torture will last only during the rag season. However, the rag goes on for one year said undergrads.

The   serious ‘ragging  took place in the hostel  between    6 to 8.30am, 11 to -12 am, and 4.30 to 7 pm, with breaks in between for lectures. I was ragged from 6.8, then 11-2, then   4.-7. It was inhuman ragging said one undergrad in a television presentation on university ragging.  JVP activists are in full control in the campus after 6.00, said an informant from University of Kelaniya in 2007. Anyone found inside the campus after 9.30 pm was thrown out.

The ragging was a planned one, planned to the last detail, well before the start of the rag. They have first aid teams ready for those in need of treatment after the grueling demands of the rag such as     push up and squat exercises. Girls also take part in ragging. They are used to pacify those who are ragged, this is also organized, said undergrads. They pretend that they do not know anything and ask us, What happened, Malli”. This was part of the rag.

There is a systemic transfer of the ragging methods form one year to the next. They got ready the   year before, said undergrads. Those selected to do the next ragging have to follow a ragging course.One month before the next set of fresher are due to come in, there is a meeting where four leaders, two girls and two boys are appointed as rag leaders and   deputy. The ragging team included girls as well.  They are seen aggressively participating in the video clips available on You Tube

The seniors have been introduced as the ‘saviors’ of freshers. Freshers are repeatedly told that freshers cannot survive university life without the support of seniors.   We are told that the seniors are there to protect and look after us. We only have them. This would have been welcome news to freshers coming from backward areas. Freshers tolerated all the physical, verbal and emotional harassments   out of fear of losing this link with the seniors.

Seniors helped them to find boarding houses, but these were places where it was safe to rag the students, observed Hettiarachchi.  But freshers could not get close to the seniors. They were not allowed to question seniors. They had to bow to the second years. Any refusal to do so would make us receive a slap or be forced to kneel on sand or pebbles”.

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