We hoped to publish this yesterday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. However, due to certain reasons we were unable to. While the article that follows deals with violence against women, it is also important to look at what Sri Lankan females went through during the war.
We all know that during those thirty years of conflict, many men lost their lives. Many others were disabled and bedridden. This led to many households where the breadwinner was the mother. And so they went through a lot of abuse and harassment just so their children would not go to bed starving. When there were enough and more teachers and nurses, the women were forced to do what were previously known as jobs for men.
Then there were women who lost their children and families. Even though the years have passed, they still hope to see their families again. They look for familiar faces in the crowd and keep praying and looking at least one listening ear. Their plight, stories and victories are archived at Herstories in hopes that history will stop being the tale of men.
Written for The Nation Fine for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women falls on November 25
The black-eyed woman is rarely questioned. No one stops to ask her how she got that bruise. No one asks if it is her latest gift from her husband. They don’t ask, because they know.
Violence against women is not new to our country. For centuries, women have been the recipients of various types of blows. They are insulted, harassed and abused. Society has made it seem like being born a female is a curse, and thus females grow up fearing and expecting the worst. Amidst all the abuse, the very people who ridicule women for being the weaker sex, also ironically sing praise to their mothers and wives.
November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, designated by the United Nations General Assembly. It is a day that will make everyone open their eyes to the plight of women, identify the various forms of injustice women face and acknowledge the gravity of the situation. Violence can be in the form of rape, abuse, domestic violence, harassment and many others. While violence is usually defined as physical force, it is important to also look into the mental abuse and emotional scars women suffer.
Cases of rape are reported daily, although the punishment for rape spans from seven to 20 years only. Is this all a woman’s life, dignity and most of all, rights are worth? Everyday, a woman is in some way abused. It could be a hand in the wrong place, offensive language or a beating. Until very recently, marital rape was not recognized by law. Common belief is that the husband owns his wife’s body. He could do what he wants with it and no one has the right to question his behavior.
However, many can ask if only women are harassed. Do we not hear of abusive wives and henpecked husbands? Men too are abused and women can be violent. While this could make gender based violence a mere myth, it is important to note that violence against women is more common, at least in Sri Lanka. Thus it is important to focus on gender-based violence, specifically, against women.
Organizations, campaigns, awareness programs and protests are in abundance. The law is explained to women, and they are encouraged to speak up against violence. Public transport and places are adorned with posters carrying emergency hotlines and words of encouragement. And yet, men still show little fear and their perversions and frustrations get the best of them. And thus violence continues to scare and scar women. They are raped, abused, harassed and when a woman does speak up, she feels all eyes on her, and the victim is treated far worse than the wrong doer himself.
It is said we live in a man’s world. Women, often, have to report the abuse they face to other men. The social stigma that surrounds victims is also another pullback. Before a woman speaks up, she has to think about the repercussions she will face and the shame she will bring her family. It is not easy being a victim, so you can’t blame women for keeping quiet.
This doesn’t mean that nothing should be done about the abuse women face. On Women’s Day we praise and acknowledge how far women have moved forward in society. We recognize the laws and the wars feminists have won over the years. Among all those accomplishments, stories of abuse and injustice have no space. This is why it is important to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and take steps to achieve what the day stands for. The day a woman faces no abuse may not be a possibility in the near future, and yet, through candle light vigils, walks or other campaigns, the voices of the abused must be heard. We must all fight for justice, and we must all prove to society that women are not the weaker sex, and they are not to be stepped upon.