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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Gender Dialogue: Celebrating what?

Online Edition of the Daily News - Features: BY NADIRA Gunatilleke
ANOTHER International Women's Day has been celebrated! Everyone celebrated it in the same old manner. All celebrations were soon over without any difference. But tomorrow all ordinary women will undergo the same harassment and injustices as usual.
As the majority of Sri Lankan citizens (over 52 per cent of the total population) we, women should think about the burning issues we have to face in our day-to-day life and demand of the relevant authorities to solve them as soon as possible.
After this we can look into gender mainstreaming, empowerment and all the other subjects.
What are the burning issues we face in our day-to-day life ? When answering this question we have to be genuine and consider the experiences of ordinary women who travel in crowded buses and have dinner in their kitchens, holding the plate in their hands, not women who travel in inter-coolers and have dinner at Five Star hotels.
The simple reason for this is that the majority of Sri Lankan women fall into the first category.
Most of women work today due to financial difficulties. The morning is as dark as night during this period of the year.
At present is it possible for an ordinary working woman to walk along a path or street in the dark? The simple answer to this question is no. The possibility of being robbed, harassed or raped is very high.
Being killed and made to disappear without a trace is not impossible. But do women protest demanding street lamps, police patrols or stricter laws?
They do not even think about those things, but seek help of companions, probably a male. She does not hesitate to sacrifice anything to get his service.
They get into public transport and the harassment starts. Perverts are everywhere. Some of those men are not satisfied by only leaning against a woman. They go beyond that stage and very rarely receive verbal resistance.
Women face a ready-made set of sentences, such as: Ange gewenna berinam car ekak aran yanavako'(take a car and go if you do not like being touched), 'Wenadata hondata indala ada mokada ke gahanne?' (You enjoyed this other days. Why are you shouting today ?), etc which put the woman in a more embarrassing situation.
How often do women use their physical strength or an object to resist? How often do they demand of the driver to stop the bus at the nearest police station? Do women ever protest demanding a practical system to eradicate harassment in buses?
After reaching their destination - doesn't matter whether it is her office or home - the harassment sometimes continues in a different mode. I do not need to describe how some working women get abused in their workplaces or at home.
In her office she sometimes undergoes verbal and sexual harassment while in some homes domestic violence turns her into a smashed tomato.
But how many women want to stop it happening for the 994 th time? How many women seek help? How many of them make an official complaint? How many women have heard of the proposed 'Women's Rights Bill' which suggests considering domestic violence a crime?
When there is no certain procedure to obtain things, it is men who get it first no matter what it is. Women weakly stand behind men. This happens in all queues for buses, food, drugs, aid, all sorts of tickets and everything.
Do the distributers ask women to come forward? Do women demand justice? Do they ever complain to the relevant authorities? The only thing women do is to scold everyone in common and do so into empty space!

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