July 27, 2015

GIVE ME FREEDOM by Aruni Samarakoon – University of Adger, Norway

After the civil war, the government and the armed forces of Sri Lanka has taken the responsibility of recovering, reconstructing and rehabilitating the war affected lives in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country. Since 2009, Sri Lankan army has been emerged as the heroes that saved the country and the people including the Tamils. Many celebrations have been organized with a lot of respect to appreciate the duty of armed forces in ending civil war and helping the war affected men and women. But the civil society organizations and human rights activists at national and international level are not satisfied with the post-war peace building policies of Sri Lanka. New president was elected in 2015 while his policy manifesto has highlighted the importance of ethnic cooperation and harmony for sustainable peace but he has followed the same celebration of war victory over the Tamil youth.

Nothing has changed with women in post-war Sri Lanka. Although the civil war of Sri Lanka ended still another war is on. That war is not an armed war but a physical, psychological and sexual war against women. Therefore, no one can say that women from any ethnic group are free after the civil war of Sri Lanka. Women are still subjected to several forms of domestic and social violence. According to Samanmalee Gunasinghe (the representative of Socialist women union), a woman is raped every 90 minutes in Sri Lanka and 15 women are being raped daily. She further mentioned that 48% of the recorded crimes in 2011 were rapes of women and 89% of them were raping of girls under the age of 16. The recent incident of gang rape and murder of the 18-year old school girl in Kaytes reflects the insecurity of women in “peaceful” Sri Lanka. Many Sri Lankan women have become the victims of sexual, physical and psychological harassment   in public and in private transport system at day and night. At school, at market, at public or private place, women have become a target group for forms of violence at all levels of class, caste, religion or ethnicity.

Look at the opportunities and institutions for women to represent their economic, social and political interests and participate in decision making at community or national level. For example, the mothers from all parts of Sri Lanka are waiting for the justice for their children who were lost in the two rebels (1972, 1988) and in the civil war of Sri Lanka. They are a voiceless group that has not strong channels to represent their needs in decision making level. The war widows of the North or South of Sri Lanka are marginalized in the social, economic and political spheres. The women have no freedom to talk against the banning of the commemoration ceremony for the dead Tamils in war affected areas. Even though women have no power to organize themselves against social and political isolations, post-war trauma, sexual abuses and inability to get their lands and other property back; the women of North and South are still facing the challenges of limited participation in decision making institutions and the malfunctions of the public administration system of Sri Lanka.

The police, judiciary, law and other institutions in patriarchal post-war Sri Lanka consider women as sexual object and second sex citizens. Therefore, women have no freedom to stand against injustice. The women who go out of the traditional system are considered as not normal or a ‘baduwak’ (a prostitute). The problem of women’s marginalization in decision making is almost forgotten even in ‘good governance Sri Lanka’. The civil war of Sri Lanka is over and the citizens of Sri Lanka have gained certain kind of freedom although women are no free at all.

NEVER BREAK MY SILENCE? by Aruni Samarakoon - University of Agder, Norway

The feminist movement of Sri Lanka has brought public attention on the issues of women. Sri Lanka being a signatory of many international conventions to protect rights of women, men and children as a result of the pressure of feminist…
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