Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

Mutants in Sri Lanka: Kill off that violent gene!

The war is over, declared the government three months ago, and all of Sri Lanka breathed a collective sigh of relief. Little did we realise that this was simply an allusion to the end of aerial bombing and other military measures. The life that we Sri Lankans lived during the three decade long “war”, hasn’t changed one tiny bit.

And nobody knows this better than Sri Lanka’s women. The past thirty years of conflict, in the North as well as in the South of the country, has bred a mutant gene of increasingly brutal political and social violence in Sri Lanka. Women have been at the brunt of much of this violence as the mutant gene of violence took hold in the country's men, making them more violent and brutal to the women in their lives.

Last year, the Gender-Based Violence Forum (GBV Forum), a collective of UN and other international and local organisations, alerted Sri Lanka to the fact that “at least 60 percent of all women in Sri Lanka have experienced domestic violence”. They also said that “…the most prevalent types of violence against women are rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, forced prostitution and trafficking."

In Sri Lanka’s decades-long journey of violence, women have been the first and easiest victims. While accurate numbers of displaced women are not available, more than 60% of the 500,000+ displaced people in the country are women. Living in temporary shelters, Displaced persons camps, detention centres and state-run orphanages, women and young girls in the conflict areas have been at very high risk of abuse and violent acts.

Outside these conflict areas, the story isn’t any better. Police stations nationwide routinely record between 8,000 and 10,000 cases of violence against women per month – but women’s rights advocates estimate that this is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The mutation of violence that set in, spurred on by state-sponsored acts of political violence and intimidation, has firmly taken root. There is no longer any shame in hitting or beating a woman, and this apparently peace-loving Buddhist nation has turned a blind eye to the increasing rape of young girls and incest in the heartlands of the country.

Not even women in the spotlight are spared from violence. Women politicians are verbally abused on Live TV, prominent female actors and singers are assaulted and demeaned as prostitutes, and the prostitutes… well, let’s not go there as I probably wont finish writing this if I take time to spell out every public act of violence against women in the last few years alone.

As Sri Lanka tries to come out of its mind-set of war, and to find another way to define ourselves and what we live for, the impact of this national soul-searching on us women is not immediately clear. Will an end to war mean an end to the violence that is now so commonplace? Will an end to the aerial bombing and the suicide bombers mean that we can stop living in fear, outside our homes as well as within? Will we be safe and find real refuge in the “shelters”? Can we aim for public office without being humiliated and assaulted?

At the risk of being called a cynical pessimist, my answer is a resounding NO. No, because we have not even begun asking the right questions, questions that will help us dig deep into the mindset of violence. No, because the archaic laws that are superficially revised from time to time at the bidding of various UN agencies that have a convention to be ratified, will not lead to the paradigm shift required in our justice system. No, because we do not still talk about it, even though we live through it.

As Sri Lanka slowly edges towards a new era of life without an ongoing military conflict, as we strive to piece together a nation torn apart by racial tensions, and as we work to raise ourselves out of the quagmire of national debt and poor quality of life, we can only hope that the mindset of violence will die a natural death too.

Perhaps we can kill off that genetic mutation in Sri Lankan men, as the final act of war?

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

Comments

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Thought provoking piece

Manori,

This is such a strong op-ed. It is thought-provoking, heart-breaking, and honest. You are boldly facing Sri Lanka's warts and saying enough. I agree with your opinion that Sri Lanka needs to start asking the right questions and quit reacting to empty outside pressures. Only by looking within for the solutions, can the healing begin.

Well done,
Jennifer

p.s. I LOVE your new picture.

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

Manori's picture

Tx!

It was much easier to write than all the others... i dont know what that says about my writing skills! Maybe I'm meant to write op-eds and not other stuff!! :)

The increasing mindset of violence is truly scary. Violent acts are now so commonplace they dont even register as an "incident" anymore - the complacency and acceptance is staggering, and i truly believe that if we dont address it now, we'll never be free of this mutation that has come on us. (i'm kind of an X-men fan, as you would probably have figured by now!!)

I thought my previous pix was a bit too western - figured I'll put one of me in a saree. But in cropping the pix, I've pretty much removed all evidence of wearing a saree!!!

I wrote to Scott in a panic when the pix didnt load up immediately - please ask him to disregard my email!

Take care,
Manori

Taur Orange's picture

Op-Ed: Mutant Gene

Hi there, Manori!
What a strong and unequivocating piece! You really shared your full "voice" with this one, Manori! Clear and controlled, while passionate and hard-hitting. I felt like you issued an activist call to arms to us all, not just to Sri Lankans. I was moved by this.

Taur

Amei's picture

Sri Lanka - a beautiful country

Hi Manori,

Written with power and touching.

Every time unrest/military conflict takes place in Sri Lanka, I am saddened. I have close connection to some awesome people from Sri Lanka since my childhood. I have visited several times on different occasions. Times of unrest were fearful during my visits and at times of peace it was a wonderful.

I hope without the military conflict, Sri Lanka achieve the best for its people and especially to women. My visit to Sri Lanka in Decemner 2009 was personal and I enjoyed the natural beauty.

Sincerely, Amei

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

womenspace's picture

CAMBODIA: Ordinary Women Can Make a Difference

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative