Text and Pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
Women’s Action for Social Justice (WASJ) recently organized a panel discussion on the theme Violence Against Women is ‘Violence Against Humanity,’ which was held at the Public Library auditorium.
Signature campaign seeks public attention and participation
Over 10,000 signatures, which have been gathered against Violence Against Women, from 10 December 2012 to May 2013, were also handed over to the United Nations Office in Colombo.
Signatures were gathered from the general public in 15 areas in 13 districts (Anuradhapura, Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala, Matara, Matale, Moneragala and Nuwara Eliya).
“Rape, the most serious act of violence committed against women, has significantly increased in our country over the past two decades, despite the enactment of relevant laws. According to police and judicial statistics, there were 665 rape incidents reported in 1990, 542 in 1995, 1,397 in 2007, 1,592 in 2008, 1,624 in 2009, 1,854 in 2010 and 1,636 until 30 November 2011. In Kahawatta alone, so far, 15 women have been brutally murdered,” says Padma Pushpakanthi, Convener, Women’s Action for Social Justice.
Women’s rights activists demanded that justice should be delivered on time.
Signing the Violence Against Women banner
“A father in Vanni has sexually abused his three daughters, and all of them are pregnant. The community has filed a case against this particular man for sexually abusing his daughters, and he is imprisoned. All three daughters, who were forced to be pregnant by their father, want their children to be born,” says Sumathi Maragathamoorthy, a women’s rights activist from Jaffna.
“There are nearly 25,000 women from the North and East stuck at garment factories,” says Reverend Sister Noel Christine.
Ordinary Sri Lankan women in fishing, farming and plantation communities have been victims of violence during war and post-war periods.
“We are in a society which enjoys abusing women,” says Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, veteran film director and playwright.
“Women tea pluckers are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy, but they are marginalized, and deprived of their basic rights. They are extremely poor, most of them are still living in linehouses, and there are serious health and safety problems,” says Menaha Kandasamy, President, Ceylon Plantation Workers’ Red Flag Union.
Women’s rights activists also insisted the importance of citizens to check on the authorities whether duty assigned to them is carried out properly and responsibly.
Campaign at grass root and national levels
“There is no social protection for women in Sri Lanka, says S.G. Punchihewa, human rights activist and Attorney-at-Law.
Children at play while their mothers talk about Violence Against Women