Blog Archives

One Billion No More

One Billion Rising has been launched in several countries, and on Sunday Sri Lanka joined the growing list.

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.

Pic by Tehani Ariyaratne

Pic by Tehani Ariyaratne

Pic by Tehani Ariyaratne

Pic by Tehani Ariyaratne

At Galle Face for the launching of OBR Sri Lanka!

Pic by Megara Tegal

Pic by Megara Tegal

Street theatre performance about VAW

DSC_1348

Pic by Megara Tegal

The engrossed audience

Pic by Megara Tegal

Pic by Megara Tegal

 

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We Are Rising

We support this and we’ll be at Galle Face for the launch of One Billion Rising in Sri Lanka.

Yes, one billion exceeds our 20 million population. And that’s what’s startling. See, the UN has discovered that 1 in 3 women become victims of gender based violence everyday. With a world population that stands at 7 billion, it equates to ONE BILLION victims each day.

One billion women and girl-children are subjected various forms of gender based violence, from catcalling to rape. So Eve Ensler, the founder of the bold plays ‘The Vagina Monologues’, decided to create a movement to raise awareness. Her plan is get one billion people– men, women and children, to protest against gender based violence leading up to 14th of February 2013.

Each country that has pledged their support of OBR has launched the campaign in their respective countries. Sri Lanka will join them on the 25th of November (this Sunday). And that’s what the flyer is about.

So join us at the launch of OBR Sri Lanka and show your support.

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.

Guest Post- GBV: Society is both the perpetrator and victim

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

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

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.

Sources:

http://www.biosciencetrends.com/action/downloaddoc.php?docid=308 and http://www.statistics.gov.lk/social/dhs_final_report/Caption%20for%20the%20web-%20final%20report%20tables.pdf

T

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: 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.

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: Ten

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

Day Ten features a photograph by Hyshyama Hanim.

Call it what it is. Despite decades of grappling with gender based violence issues, the world still lies to itself, culture still sets up excuses, society still believes in myths around abuse, violence and discrimination of women. You and I are still trying to understand its root cause. No it is not her so-called meekness, his so-called inherent anger, her dress, his alcoholism, her behavior, his lust. It is perceived ‘power’. This fueled by patriarchal ideology, fermented in societal practice and belief. To eliminate it, is to start from the root. Call it what it is.

– Hyshyama

Watch this blog for the next 7 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

Hyshyama is a guest contributor. She loves ink sketching and is pretty good with a camera. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Day: Nine

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

Day nine features a photograph by Megara Tegal.

In most cases of Gender Based Violence, be it street harassment, rape or domestic violence, women don’t seek help. The reason for this may be anything from feeling at fault for what happened to them or not having faith in the police or justice system.

Unfortunately, as long as women don’t speak up and they continue to suffer in silence gender based violence will be prevail in the world. It’s time we broke that silence.

Watch this blog for the next 8 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

Megara Tegal is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist, a student and a tree-hugging hippy. She blogs here- The Puppeteer. Her opinions are her own.

Guest Post- Violence against women – 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

Last year, someone known to me was flickering with ebullience and oomph that she was going to get married. She was gracious enough to let my eyes run through her gifts of velvet cased jewellery and other apple polished frilly elegance. She also told me the guy was 23, fluent in his English because she wasn’t and hadn’t asked anything in terms of dowry from her. I understood, she was happy at this prospect.

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

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.