Sri Lanka joins in global women's protest
One Billion Rising against violence to women
Women’s rights activists on Thursday urged the government to be more vigilant in protecting women from abuse during a candlelight vigil in the capital. The event was part of a global campaign to end violence against women.
Sachini Perera, an activist from the Women and Media Collective and organizer of the vigil, said that one in three women in Sri Lanka experience some form of sexual assault.
“We shouldn’t let this continue and be silent about it. We are here to ask policymakers to stop violence against women,” she said.
She added that violence against women rose six percent last year over the previous year. “The situation is very bad, the highest it has ever been,” she said.
The participants at the vigil joined a global alliance of rights groups, activists and concerned citizens taking part in the One Billion Rising campaign, inaugurated this year to highlight the estimated one billion women worldwide who have suffered sexual or gender-based violence.
Activists say gender violence is rife in Sri Lanka.
Four women – most of them below the age of 18 – were raped each day in 2012, according to police data.
Sister Gayani Silva blamed the legal system as well as attitudes among the male population to the social status of women for the rise in gender-based violence.
“More laws should be introduced, but in fact even with existing laws very little is being done and young men should be educated about women’s equality,” said Sr Gayani, who works with abused women and children.
Dr Udan Fernando, a specialist on international development issues and a participant at the vigil, said violence against women is linked with society's views on what it means to be a man.
He further advocated the importance of collective campaigns to end violence and said “when people act together, they get inspiration from each other to face such problems.”
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