UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls: Women Parliamentarians Stand in Unity with the Global Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
With the current economic crisis, Sri Lanka is facing new vulnerabilities. Even prior to the crisis, women and the girl child did not enjoy complete freedom, opportunities and safety due to the grave human rights violation of gender-based violence. The Women’s Wellbeing Survey 2019 conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics reported that during their lifetime, 20 percent of the ever-partnered women have faced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner and that 25 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner or a non-partner after 15 years of age. 18 percent expressed that they were subjected to economic abuse by a partner in their lifetime. 21 percent of the women who experienced violence by a partner had never expressed it to anyone before the interviews.
The economic crisis has certainly made these already vulnerable individuals at further risk. High inflation rates and the resulting hunger, nutritional crisis, expenditure struggles at homes, rising poverty levels, social unrest, reduction in healthcare assistance including reproductive health and other services would only make women and girls more vulnerable to gender based violence and its resultant adverse impact on them.
“The global theme of the campaign 2022 is “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.” It emphasizes that without unity GBV cannot be combatted, thus calling on governments, development partners, CSOs, youth, media and all other stakeholders to come together to fight against GBV. Therefore, the 16 days of activism against GBV is an important advocacy period for our goal to advocate for and ensure equal grounds for women in Sri Lanka.” Hon. (Dr.) (Mrs.) Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Chairperson, Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus (WPC)
“GBV is nothing new to women in Sri Lanka. We as women have to face it always. But, that doesn’t make it okay. We cannot let it be normalized. As women parliamentarians we always face verbal violence based on our gender. During elections, and whenever someone needs to disgrace us, the most common weapon used is our gender roles and the stereotypical thinking that stigmatized our roles in the public sphere and stepping out of the house to be a leader in politics, as a female parliamentarian. We should fight this. We should fight any form of GBV.” Hon. (Mrs.) Rohini Kaviratne, Deputy Co- Chairperson, WPC
“Today we enter into this year’s 16 days of global activism against GBV, within this grave context in Sri Lanka. As women parliamentarians, we take it very seriously. We have always sought to bring about, or at least improve gender equality in Sri Lanka as peoples’ representatives.” Hon. (Mrs.) Geetha Kumarasinghe, State Minister of Women and Child Affairs
“We urge all Sri Lankans to have zero tolerance for any kind of violence or sexual harassment committed against any human being by showing strong aversion coupled with adequate responses expressing zero tolerance for such acts of GBV. It is our indifference that causes the perpetrators to normalize these human rights violations they commit. So, we should act, not be silent and passive observers.” Hon. (Mrs.) Diana Gamage, State Minister of Tourism
“We understand that this is an era where society has lost trust in parliamentarians in general. However, despite our party differences, we, as twelve female parliamentarians, stand in unity with the global community to fight against GBV, particularly to empower women in Sri Lanka to stand against GBV.” Hon. (Mrs.) Manjula Dissanayake, Member of WPC
“The Caucus is in the process of supporting the drafting of a Women’s Bill to be presented to parliament. However, we are also conscious that laws alone do not effect change and that there is a lot of work that needs to be done institutionally and politically to ensure that the bill when passed will make a meaningful difference in the lives of women in Sri Lanka.” Hon. (Dr.) (Ms.) Harini Amarasuriya, Member of WPC
To stand in solidarity with this global movement, the female parliamentarians will be carrying out a series of advocacy measures starting from 25th November. They are conducting two panel discussions on combating GBV on 28th and 29th November and also a press conference on 1st December. On the day of the press conference, a wristband with the message “Let’s Unite to end Gender Based Violence” will be tied on Parliamentarians as a solidarity measure and all lady MPs will be invited to come in Orange attire. This will take place in the recently established Gender and Social Inclusion Section of the Parliament Library which contains publications relevant to gender equality and social inclusion available for reference by all MPs. All these activities will be carried out hand in hand with the Parliament Communications Department and the Parliament Secretariat in the hope of raising awareness among Parliamentarians and the public against GBV.