Category Archives: Sex – Sexuality – Gender

OBR in Pictures

Click on an image to view slide show.

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

South Asia is Rising

What’s One Billion Rising (OBR) and why should you rise?

Kamla Bhasin, world famous feminist writer and activist, who’s leading OBR in South Asia– gave us a quick interview on the worldwide campaign.

Video- filmed and edited by Megara Tegal in Nepal.

Sri Lanka’s Youth Plan for Sustainable Development

The Rio+20 Summit is in full swing and the Sri Lankan arm has taken its first initiative, in which a statement has been presented to the Minister of Environment. Post-war Sri Lanka certainly is in need of a system of sustainable development and at this stage the country has a fresh start in which adopting such a system is relatively trouble free; or so it should be.

The statement that encapsulates several vital areas in sustainable development was drafted by over 30 youth-led and youth-focus local organizations that are involved in environmental conservation, management, climate change, sustainable development and advocacy for environmental issues. Bringing these organizations together and orchestrating Sri Lanka’s participation in the Rio Summit, is the Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka (YGSL) that was established earlier this year (March 2012). The statement is a position paper on which future projects will be based. The paper was presented to the Ministry of Environment, as the ministry had arranged for the involvement of youth groups in the process. Nashen Gunesekera, the drafting committee chair, says it shows the enthusiasm of the government as other governments had not involved environmental conscious volunteer groups, apart from the ministry’s own.

Attaining sustainable development

A large team of local environmentally conscious youths has formulated a multipronged action plan, addressing several key areas that are intrinsic in the development of a nation. Top of the list and under the umbrella of youth policy positions, the statement mentions society’s role in sustainable development. The activists believe that equality is essential, they explained “our aspiration is equality for all, and not the luxury of the 20 per cent of the world’s people who enjoy the exploitation of 80 per cent of its resources.”

Well-being and happiness as well as right mindfulness were also highlighted as the cornerstone to sustainable development. Society being at the heart of development, even with an extraordinary physical plan, it cannot fruition sans the right mindset of the people.

The economy is another key area that needs to be addressed, and therefore, the team included environmental sustainability and poverty reduction, and a Green Economy in the statement. YGSL explains, “A Green Economy should replace the current economic order of inequity, destruction and greed. A Green Economy should be an economic system that ensures social equity, protects the ecological balance and creates economic sufficiency. The core idea of a Green Economy should be to enforce sustainability, specifically the wellbeing of all people and respecting and preserving the biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems.

A green economy manages consumption and production in an environmentally conscious manner. The document indicated, Agenda 21 (Chapter 4.3), which is an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992) states that; “The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances.” According to the team enabling the SCP should be the focus of any emerging international outcome. SCP is a systemic process of lifestyle and livelihood behaviours that ensures the wellbeing of all people in an equitable manner while conserving the ecology for current and future generations.

Political solutions are on the cards as well as sustainable development governance, which they said, “We understand Sustainable Development Governance should necessarily create platforms at every level for the voice of youth to be heard and to be considered within the decision making processes, for it is on the shoulders of youth the responsibility rests.”

On that note they believe it is necessary to establish an office for the ombudsperson — high commission for future generations. “We the youth representatives of Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka understand that there is a lacuna in current decision making processes and institutions of the world, especially as all of them fail to consider the long term effects of decisions made today. The proposal stated at paragraph 57 of the Zero Outcome document calling for the establishment of an Ombudsperson/High Commissioner for Future Generations is thus an opportunity to meet this short coming and by establishing such an office, we believe that both the aspirations of youth and future generations will be protected.”

How Sustainable Development Can be Achieved

The team also presented a set of recommendation that can be adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka as well as the governments in the international arena. They laid emphasis on the inclusion of the youth at all levels of decision making so the future can be shaped to suit the next generation better. The team expressed, “We wish to state by participation, youth are empowered and are given the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential hence enabling them to harness their skills required to move the world toward the paradigm shift which is necessary to achieve economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability.”

Employment for the youth is also mandatory for a better greener future, according to the local Rio+20 Summit members. “At present there is a lack of green job initiatives and access to green skills training programmes for young people. We believe bridging the skills gap among young people through improved education and training will be a key to achieving environmental objectives and a transition to a green economy.”

Education and training  —  skills development opportunities, the opportunity for youth to volunteer to achieve sustainable development.

The President will present the paper as part of the country report at the summit. Neshan Gunesekara said, “The international community will analyze, scrutinize and criticize the paper. The point of presenting the paper at an international forum is so that other countries can take stock of what Sri Lanka has achieved over the years and adopt some of these strategies that will help them.

He added that, he personally believes that the youth of Sri Lanka is very environmentally conscious, and they have shown an initiative but what they lack, is the support of the government and other authorities, in implementing plans and taking their concerns into consideration.

Well, that’s good news for BB too. Having particular goals will help us channel our efforts in these areas and those connected to contribute to sustainable development in Sri Lanka. It should also make devising project plans easier. So three cheers to our Rio paper!

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Sexual Offenders Go Scot Free (Only in Sri Lanka)

In Sri Lanka sexual offenders are pretty much the same as petty thieves. After all, assaulting and raping a 12 year old girl is the same as stealing mangoes from your neighbours garden– at least that’s how our judiciary see it.

In 1995, after much coercion by women’s rights lawyers and activists, a law was passed stating that anyone found guilty of committing a sexual offence will receive a minimum prison sentence of seven to ten years. Now that law acted as a deterrent. It was a strict sentence that would ensure that the more devious of men would not act on their lascivious urges for fear of being contained behind bars for several years. Progress was being made up until 2008, when a particular High Court Judge in Anuraddhapura, felt it wasn’t fair to dispense such a harsh ruling on a man who had consensual sex with a 16 year old girl. The victim and the accused had eloped, gotten married and started life together as a married couple. With consent from the Supreme Court, the judge simply ruled a ‘suspended sentence’. A suspended sentence is the blacklisting of criminals who are free from any form of punishment unless another complaint is made aganist them.

Using this verdict several criminal lawyers have helped sexual offenders escape serving a prison term. Since 2008 to 2009, it’s been found that of 129 reported cases identified by LHRD, an alarming 114 received a suspended sentence which included a paltry compensation fine and freedom to harass the victim and maybe even commit the crime over again but this time around make sure the victim doesn’t spill the beans on him.

That’s 88% of the reported cases. 88% of  those who have been found guilty of sexual offences- some as harsh as violently assaulting and raping a woman, ganging raping a woman who was waiting for her bus in the middle of the night, and a man who repeatedly raped his niece and threatened to kill her if she spoke about it- all free to walk among us.

Will the ‘suspended sentencing’ of sexual offenders be lifted? Going by what the Attorney General’s Department said at a press conference organised by the Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRD) on the matter- not too soon; if anytime at all.

Attorney, Kalyananda Thiranagama who is also the executive director of Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRW) stated that court proceedings must speed up. One of the reason’s a suspended sentence is declared is because the court cases are prolonged. While Dr. Mario Gomez of the Law Commission of Sri Lanka said that at the very least the Supreme Court should set up guidelines to direct High Court Judges when passing verdicts on sexual offenders. The Attorney General’s Department however, did not have a satisfactory response, instead they were vague and uncommitted.

So what hope is there? Well for now we can raise awareness. Having read this do share this information with friends and family, if we can make enough noise about it, maybe the government will finally realise that intimidation and forced sex is nothing close to a petty crime.

– Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist, part time TV show host, 3rd grade caricature artist, student in social sciences and she holds the world prize for klutz-iness. Her opinions are her own. She blogs here.

Day: Thirteen

This image is free of copyrights. Feel free to use this image to raise awareness about gender based violence.

Day thirteen features a photograph by Rushda Mohinudeen.

While gender-based violence has recently emerged as a salient topic in the human security community, it has been framed principally with respect to violence against women and girls, particularly sexual violence. In this article, I argue that gender-based violence against men (including sexual violence, forced conscription, and sex-selective massacre) must be recognized as such, condemned, and addressed by civilian protection agencies and proponents of a ‘human security’ agenda in international relations. Men deserve protection against these abuses in their own right; moreover, addressing gender-based violence against women and girls in conflict situations is inseparable from addressing the forms of violence to which civilian men are specifically vulnerable.

– Sage Journals Online

Watch this blog for the next 4 days. We’ll be posting a featured photograph each day till 10 December as part of WMC campaign against GBV.

For more information about this campaign click here

Rushda Mohinudeen is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She heads ReachOut (a women’s rights group), works at an advertising agency and enjoys calling people koonjis. More of her photography can be found here.

Day: Twelve

This image is free of copyrights. Feel free to use this image to raise awareness about gender based violence.

Text can be changed.

Day twelve features a photograph by Salaf Tegal.

‘Violence’ is a harsh word. On hearing the phrase ‘violence against women’ what comes to mind may be brutal images of-  an acid burnt face, a severed limb, a broken bone or a black eye. Those are the more apparent forms of abuse. Equally horrendous but less visible is verbal abuse.

Many women are subjected to mental trauma- whether it’s their husbands, fathers or employers who issue the verbal onslaught. Derided daily in abusive and foul language most of these women believe they are worthless.

Recognising the severity of verbal abuse and the long term mental impact it has on women, Women In Need (WIN) provide counselling and other relevant services for victims of verbal abuse. Of the victims who have walked through their doors, WIN says they are severely psychologically affected.

All human beings deserve to be treated with respect.

Watch this blog for the next 5 days. We’ll be posting a featured photograph each day till 10 December as part of WMC campaign against GBV.

For more information about this campaign click here

Salaf Tegal is a guest contributor. He’s currently studying at Raffles- Malaysia, he’s an artist and photographer, more of his work can be found  here.

Virus

The good news– Sri Lanka is a ‘low prevalent country’ for HIV AIDS.

The bad news– With the country’s precipitant development, the risk of HIV AIDS spreading wildly is a burning problem.

What’s worse- The youth are highly vulnerable to contraction of the virus due to the “increase in migration internally, externally and internationally due to economic, leisure, [and] displacement”- according to the Family Planning Association.

So ask yourself- do you know all there is to know about HIV AIDS? Did you know that the virus can be contracted due to momentary carelessness?

One of the best methods of prevention is to keep yourself informed and Beyond Borders is inviting you to a Forum Theatre production on HIV AIDS. Bring your friends too and watch the enthralling interactive play and discussion.

The event is for free. All you need to do is register here- online form.

Day: Eleven

This image is free of copyrights. Feel free to use this image to raise awareness about gender based violence.

Day eleven features a photograph by T.

In our homes, on our roads, in our classrooms and at our workplaces, women and men are subject to harassment, abuse and injury on a daily basis. A reported 60% of women suffer from domestic violence; simple extrapolation suggests that all of us are victim to some form of gender based violence.

And yet, we remain silent. The woman who speaks out is too much; she was asking for it. The man who speaks out is a coward; he couldn’t take it like a man. We are told to keep it to ourselves, it’s no one else’s business, it is shameful, it is our fault.

So we do not see it, we do not hear it, and we do not speak of it. And it continues.

Speak out today. Talk about what you’ve heard, write about what you’ve seen. Point fingers, name names. The shame is not ours, it is theirs. For unless we speak now, it will be too late.

T

Watch this blog for the next 6 days. We’ll be posting a featured photograph each day till 10 December as part of WMC campaign against GBV.

For more information about this campaign click here

T is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She works in the development sector and has mad culinary skills. She’s a writer, a poet and she dabbles in photography. She blogs at Dance in a Triangle. Her opinions are her own.

Day: Seven

This image is free of copyrights. Feel free to use this image to raise awareness about gender based violence.

Day Seven features a photograph by Sara Kellapatha.

Every year, large numbers of Sri Lankan women travel to countries in the Middle East to be employed as housemaids and in doing so, they leave behind their families, most often husbands and children. What some of them may not know is that the female children in these families are often subject to sexual abuse and rape by their fathers. These girls are very young, sometimes as young as nine. And they are left helpless, silent screams pounding in their heads. Often, they will not take any action, except tell their tales to a relative or friend. But nothing ever happens. The father will come home and ensure that his daughter is subject to these vile actions. How horrible must these young girls feel? For their own father to touch them in places they will feel uncomfortable. For their own father to rape them repeatedly. This is an issue which should be addressed largely in Sri Lanka.

Sarah

Watch this blog for the next 10 days. We’ll be posting a featured photograph each day till 10 December as part of WMC campaign against GBV.

For more information about this campaign click here

Sarah is a member of Beyond Borders Forum Theatre group. She’s a freelance journalist, food columnist and she blogs www.turquoisecupcakes.wordpress.com. Her opinions are her own.

#Violence against women – 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

Me and V - by Ruvin

Two months ago I sat for my first year final exams at the Open University of Sri Lanka. Last months edition of the Hi Magazine showcased 3 pages of clothes from designer K.T Brown – modelled by me. And in December, I will be on Art TV – as a contestant for the Super Model of Asia Pacific 2011. I suffer from no grandiose illusions about myself – I am no super model, am extremely uncomfortable in front of the camera and at age 26 have only just begun studying for my degree – but every one of these steps are a huge achievement for me – for just over three years ago I was trapped in an abusive marriage – one that wore down every shred of confidence I ever owned – confidence I have struggled to take control of and own ever since.

It has never been easy for me to speak of what took place during those 5 years I was married, I don’t think I ever fully have. I mean to now, because I feel that my story – or some part of it may resonate with someone out there – someone who may still be ignorant of her rights – for while it was youthful folly that led me to marry at the age of 18 it was ignorance that held me there 5 years – trapped in marriage to a man who didn’t recognize me as an equal – a man who reflected attitudes and actions no different to 99% of the men here in Sri Lanka. Don’t get me wrong – I am no feminist. I see no reason to burn the bra when all one needs to do is not wear it – I can only attest to what is true for me – to what is my reality.

I was recently at an event at which a Buddhist priest spoke – he told the audience that he ran a pre-school in Kalmunai and how he loved working with children. He mentioned that he was brought up in a Home for destitute children and said that when he saw children ‘ mahath dukak mata athivenava’ (a great sadness come over me). It is this same ‘mahath duka’ I feel when I see women living lives they should not have to live. Sadness and anger. Anger at a system that makes it so hard for a woman to stand up for her rights, a system that doesn’t protect women, a system that discriminates against a woman and a system that casually accepts as normal all abuse against women.

I know what it is like to be beaten for having an opinion, beaten for answering back, beaten because he didn’t like what you just said, beaten because he was drunk, beaten because you felt you had rights and asked for them, beaten because you had values and you stood up for them, beaten because he felt you didn’t respect him. I have been beaten for less. I know what it is like to be told you don’t amount to anything, that you have nothing, that your parents are nothing, that you came from nowhere and that you will never amount to anything. I know what it is like to believe these lies.

I know what it is like to stand waiting at a Police Station to make an entry (because my mother had the sense to push me to) and have the police laugh in your direction, look at you sneeringly, and make you feel like it is you who is in the wrong. I know what it is like to stand there alone, holding a crying child, scarlet-cheeked and ashamed, like scores and scores and scores of other Sri Lankan women do. I know what it is like to want to leave an abusive man, but be too afraid to. I know what its like to feel like it is your responsibility to stay, for the sake of your child – even if you learn later that he has the bigger responsibility to treat his wife, the mother of his child right. I know what it is like to be locked out of the house, in the middle of the night, because he felt he could do that to you and to be crouching in fear and shaking with tears. I know what it is like when all the adults that surround you tell you that time will heal all wounds, or that he will change with time, or that you should be patient – when all you really want is for the abuse to stop.

How many other women are in the same predicament today? How many women are being advised to be patient, to ‘bow’ their heads, to stay for the sake of the children? How many are being told to be careful with what they say to their husbands, to refrain from angering him, to pray, to go to church, to write in a diary, to ask forgiveness for sin, to put their lives right in the sight of God, to make pujas? How many women are – in addition to the beating they are getting from their husbands, beating themselves up – by taking blame and responsibility for a wrong that is not theirs? How many women carry this guilt with them their lifelong? And how very few women know that they don’t have to? There is serious dearth of education and mainstream conversation on the topic of violence against women. And we that refuse to speak only contribute to it. Domestic violence is portrayed in images of black and white, in symbols and signage – but why do those of us with a voice not speak? We the middle and upper English speaking classes like to comfort ourselves with the idea that violence against women is a distant reality affecting only the uneducated and poorer classes- but the very real truth is that violence against women exists everywhere, in every class, in most homes. But how many of us hide behind the cloak of shame and refuse to speak.

Young men reading this, ask yourselves if you have not seen your father make your mother cry, your father hit your mother, even. Young women, ask yourselves if you do not throw yourselves into a social life that keeps you away from home for as long as possible because you just don’t want to go home and have to see the limited life your mother lives or at how abusive the father you love can be to her? Yes, there are exceptions, but I speak not for them or of them, I speak for all those of you in the system – being abused now, today, to all those of you watching someone else being abused now, today, even to you men who speak of equality for the sexes and yet shun the idea of counselling, couple therapy, anger management and a host of other tools that can be used to create an equal platform that will be the foundation for the relationship you share with you partner. I speak to you – should you too not speak up? Should not this kind of behaviors and attitudes be labeled with a clear NO?

How many mothers stay in unhappy marriages for the sakes of their children and bring up children that can’t discern between the right and the wrong they see happening in their homes? How many women tell their sons that they must treat women right and then allow their husbands to walk all over them? Unless there is some bravery, some balls on the side of the women themselves, this cycle of abuse will continue. Sons will grow up to mistreat their women (whatever their true intentions may be) and daughters will grow up vowing never to marry. Marriages will fail and children (like mine) will have broken homes. But the question worth asking is – how much less broken is a home with an abusive father to a home in which their is no father at all? Not much less.

The Sri Lanka 16 Days campaign is a wonderful initiative. I am only coming out with parts of my story because there is a platform for it. (and because I am today, older, wiser, stronger) But there must be more platforms, there must be more conversation, there must be more acceptance, more support, more initiatives such as this and much much less tolerance for domestic violence. Sri Lanka has a long way more to go. The system of justice is marked with delays, administrative failures, bribery and corruption. It has been three years since my marriage ended and I am yet to get the justice I seek. The legal system needs to strengthen and we needs lawyers with integrity – lawyers that will demand an end to the bribery and corruption that goes on within the courts. We need counsellors that will counsel with a conscience, we need women to understand that an education can get them a job that can give them financial independence. We need trustworthy childcare systems and a trustworthy police force. Yes, we are a long way away from it all.

But today, I spoke up. And tomorrow I hope you will. And maybe the day after tomorrow more people will speak up and in the next generation our children will benefit from it. Being a young single mother in this country hasn’t been easy. I feel judged – all the time! Not having a man ensures that I am an easy target to three-wheel drivers, baas’s, unscrupulous tuition teachers, dirty policemen, harsh neighbors, school principals – the whole lot. I have come to realize that the hardest thing a single woman, or a single mother faces is social stigmatization. And yet, when I wake up in the morning and I know the day is my own, that the goals I have set are my own, that all achievements are my own, that the decisions I make are my own, and that my son is my own, I am happy.

**
This blog post is a contribution to the ongoing 16 day (25th November to 10th December) campaign against gender violence. You can contribute too – share your story – blog, tweet, upload photos, videos or podcasts, participate in and organize events to raise awareness on gender-based violence. Visit this site for more details: Sri Lanka 16 Days Campaign. 
Original post can be found here-> Space Cake Break at Titicaca Lake.
Kataclysmichaos is a member of Beyond Borders. She works in advertising, is a free-lance journalist and a model. We love the diversity! She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.