A Call for Safe Nights! Safe Streets! Safe Homes!
The Women’s Education and Research Centre (WERC) as its International Women’s Day initiative, undertook to create awareness on the issue of violence against women and called for a sexual violence free country. On the 5th of March, 2018, women from different women’s organizations and like minded organizations together with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, gathered at dusk in front of the Fort Railway Station to begin their Walk under the banner “Safe Nights! Safe Streets! Safe Homes!” As darkness fell, with the Railway Station bustlinging with people rushing home from work, approximately 300 women and men of all religions, ethnicities and ages, began their Walk, signifying the need for safety for women on the streets at night. Among the participants were Hon. Minister Sudarshini Fernandopulle and eminent professors and women’s rights activists. Each participant carried a torch and the Walk began with a lusty chorus of slogans that called out for safety for women – at night, on the streets and in their homes. The slogans strongly condemned attitudes that took the night time away from women through negative societal attitudes. The occurrence of sexual violence is often attributed to the dress the women wore at the time of attack or to the time she was out on the streets.
The IWD Walk was a timely effort in the context of the rising incidence of violence against women in our country. As we are all aware, women and girls who commute after dusk, walk the streets gripped by fear of different degrees of violence ranging from catcalls, sexual harassment to gang rape. Women just like other citizens of this country have the right to walk the streets fearlessly at all times whether it be in the village or in the town.. “Recent cruel and horrendous crimes perpetrated against women in our country, compel us to collectively raise our voices to put an end to sexual violence,” said a participant.
The active participation of women and men of all ages was significant and was indicative of the fact that this was a concern not only of women but society as a whole. The slogans shouted out in all three languages signified this issue as one that affects all women of our country. One young woman expressed it this way” “sexual violence affects our families, homes and our loved ones, and we need to break the silence – around it – silence that has hidden its occurrence and prevented adequate action.”
The Walk ended up at the Galle Face Green with speeches by Hon. Minister Hirunika, Ms. Udeni Thevaraperuma, Lawyer and Women’s Rights Activist, Jayachithra Velayuthan, Women’s Rights Activist, and Swasthika Thirulingam, Lawyer and Women’s Rights Activist and Mr. Ravi Jayawardena, Chairperson Rupavahini Corporation. Meaningful creations expressions in poetry and song were rendered by Ms. Suranjika Bartholomeusz and her students Anuki Keenawinna, Azma Rizan , Shehani Guruge and Chethana Ratnayake.
The event concluded with a Statement by the Women’s Education and Research Centre read by its staff Shari Jayawardene, Hamsagowri Shivajyothi and Chamalee Ahangama – which ended on a note of hope “From here, we march on, in the hope of a better future for women – where nights are safe, the streets without violence and their homes are safe. We march on in hope!”
The following newspapers have covered this event. The links given below provide more information about this walk.
*The Sunday Times – March 11th 2018