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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.
Sri Lanka needs to rise. The injustice is too deeply set– it’s time we snapped out of the apathy and made some noise.
Investigations of the Wijerama gang rape victim is against the victim. Yes, you read that right. It was reported that the police suspect she’s a sex-worker and so her claim of being raped has got to be false. Yes, that’s the logic of those who have been appointed to protect us. Where’s the justice for women? Double that with ineffective laws to protect women, and you’d see that women in Sri Lanka are not safe.
Sunila Abeysekera spoke to Beyond Borders on why Sri Lanka should join One Billion Rising.
Video- filmed and edited by Megara Tegal in Nepal.
Women in Need conducted a walk the same day that led to Galle Face where OBR Sri Lanka was launched, with motivating speeches from inspirational women, street theater, song and dance.
At Galle Face for the launching of OBR Sri Lanka!
Street theatre performance about VAW
The engrossed audience
It’s admirable to know that there is at least a certain section of society concerned about the mental and physical violence that women and men have to undergo, but I believe that activism which encourages victims to voice their sufferings should not just stop there.
Voicing to the world about the brutality one undergoes or underwent is the first step to empowerment and emancipation. However, to see the end of gender based violence, victims should not be empowered to shed light about the violence they endure but also offered a strong safety net that allows them look beyond their past and begin a new life, free from violence. This safety net and support system is what will encourage other victims to shed light about their situation.
Victims should not be subjected to victimization yet again by an unforgiving society. Stigma will only kill the victims’ spirit to move on, and build a safe life away from violence, that dogged their past. I personally believe that the foundation of gender based violence begins with attitudes. A man’s inherent superiority complex and a woman’s strong feelings self unworthiness, leads one gender to believe that it has unconditional power to oppress the other and the other accepts this repression as a norm.
This superiority complex among men, which is subtly drilled in since childhood becomes a fire breathing monster when one becomes an adult, thus giving them the notion that abusing a woman is a natural right that has been bestowed to them. Most women on the other hand, have been made to believe by archaic societal norms that men are the superior beings; therefore they create this notion in their subconscious mind that it is acceptable to be beaten, harassed or abused.
Sadly, most married women, have become silent victims who suffer the most, because of a ‘so called’ legal bond that prevents them speaking against the violation of their rights. I believe that gender based violence will end that day parents treat their sons and daughters equally, thereby setting an example that women and men are of equal status. Whether you a man or woman, you should not tolerate any kind of mental or physical abuse hurled at you by anyone. Violence is unacceptable- tolerating it will only validate it, further. Everyone deserves better.
Guest post by Shabnam Farook. She is a food columnist whose passions include good cheesecake, sushi and music by John Mayer.
Day fifteen features a photograph by T.
Intimate partner violence is a little studied, yet frequently occurring phenomenon in Sri Lanka. IPV occurs in many ways, including physical, verbal, psychological and sexual abuse by a spouse. Reports show that there is a high prevalence of abuse such as marital rape and sexual abuse, wife beating and assault with a weapon.
Sri Lankan society tends to take the very backward view that what happens within the home should stay within the home, and that some abuse is always a part of marriage. The Demographic and Health Survey 2006/2007 shows that between 20-50% of women think a husband is justified in wife-beating for reasons such as “argues with him”, “goes out without telling him” and “refuses to have sexual intercourse with him”. A study conducted among a sample of undergraduate medical students at the University of Colombo revealed that “33.4% of the students justified wife beating, and 63.1% stated that they believed women bear a proportionately larger responsibility for the violence perpetrated against them” (Jayatilleke et al, 2010)
Perceptions and attitudes play an important role in how women are perceived within a relationship, but also affect the help that is available to them after violence occurs. The attitudes and sensitivity of police, healthcare workers and the community are important in helping to alleviate IPV.
While society turns a blind eye, many reasons have been cited for IPV. Alcoholism, early marriage age, low income and existing patriarchal attitudes, among a slew of other reasons, all contribute towards IPV. None of them, however, are an excuse.
One day left of the 16 day campaign… Tomorrow 10 December, will feature the last photograph of the 16 day online campaign against gender based violence by the 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 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.
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.
Then when she handed her invitation card, I took it. Read it. And splashed a smile in order to be nice. As I was holding the card, I shrunk in fear. Was she doing the right thing? Is she going to come through and get better without any sort of academic hand to surrogate if she fell? She was only 18 after all, stopped by 8th grade but a brilliant student during those 7 years. She maybe in her magical thoughts, but what I knew was that she would only smile into her character and pat my back saying that I was thinking way too far like she had always done if I had brought these questions out to life.
A year later, something happened and her family had to move, save they ended up living at our vacant home downstairs for a few months until things had settled at their end. Dawn came and their final day to leave us breezed in. That day before, I heard a few rumpus stewing through my room from the house below. I ran a silky thought in mind it must be her parents or some relative with a business collapse. In the mean time my mum was down attending to her plants and greenery when suddenly I heard loud sobs repine through pain. “Don’t hit me, please stop”, it moaned. I hurried closer to the window and it knocked me. The husband was beating her. What the heart of the drama saddened me was her own mother couldn’t stop him. Why being the question posed by my mum later after the man had gone, the girl had said because she has opinions and ‘a big mouth’. And then more spilled out, that his parents are encouraging his beastly seemliness that he never takes her out if she wanted or not and she has never been happy with him ever since she was sprayed off to slog as a maid in her new home.
It shocked both my parents and me sharply. I wanted to run down, hold her hand and just lock her in a hug and allow a good cry on my shoulder never mind the dampness. But the same day, the family bid goodbye back to their home. I wasn’t in a position to even sit her down and ask her everything from scratch. The guilt stood by me on the nose. I thought I imagined it all.
When I had visited her months right after marriage all she did was shine with the same old zip of energy and liveliness just as she was known. She also revealed that she was trying for a baby to complete her ‘euphoria’. But coiled inside was a crestfallen, troubled, beaten soul limping her youth cast down.
I was ashamed at myself for not trying to break through the mirror she was flashing at me. But what can I say? That everything will be alright if she keeps sticking tapes of patience to the wounds infused? How many women and young girls like her take this as their daily bread? How many are swept off with promises and pledge only to later doom them inflaming the fears and mediocrity? How many silence themselves even from their own parents because they wish not to trouble their gray heads. This, I believe is one of the worst fears young women are embroiled in. The ones tangled in marriage without any education or qualification to back them up are the ones dying and trying to get a grasp of what little liberation marriage they thought once would fix them. A dish of achievement and happiness from a man at least. But no, these girls and women remain beady in their eyes with a beast in their beds waking up to head to the kitchen to chop onions so that one’s mind would ‘clear’ trying to read of as what really, made them cry.
Gee is not a member of Beyond Borders but has shared her blog post with us in hopes of informing others about gender based violence.
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.