With ‘Mathata Thitha’:
Bringing solace to women and their families- Women’s Empowerment
Extracts from an exclusive interview with Child Development and
Women’sEmpowerment Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena
Q : What will be the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day
and how does your Ministry plan to celebrate it?
Child Development and Women
Empowerment Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena. Picture by Saman
A : This year’s theme is ‘Let us unite to end harassing women’. The
national ceremony will be held on March 8 at Royal College, Colombo 7
under the patronage of First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa. This year’s
celebration will be different.
A large number of rural women will take part in the ceremony and
about 1,000 such women will arrive in Colombo. Women from the North will
also take part in the ceremony.
Apart from this, awards will be presented to women who have excelled
in different fields such as in Armed Forces, medicine, law and sports.
It will be an encouragement for them and other women to excel in
various other fields.
Women police officers attached to the Children and Women’s Bureau
have rendered a significant service to children and women in this
country and their service will also be recognised at this ceremony.
Q – What is the most common request made by Sri Lankan women at the
A : A common request made by the majority of rural women is to find
good local and foreign markets for their products. Various types of loan
facilities are available for all rural women and the majority of them
have already started self employment projects and similar ventures.
Some Non-Governmental Organisations engaged in women’s welfare are
assisting them. They demand markets for their products.
Q : What is the gravest problem faced by Sri Lankan women?
A : One can think it is violence against women, sexual harassment or
something similar. But it is not. Violence against women, sexual
harassment and similar crimes have gone down drastically during the past
year. One of the main reasons for this situation is Mathata Thitha
concept introduced by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Now a large number of families that had been affected by alcoholic
fathers, live in peace because alcohol consumption is very much less in
villages now. Earlier it was Thanamalwila Divisional Secretariat which
recorded the highest suicide rate in the world (not only in Asia).
Now the suicide rate has drastically gone down and even the families
destroyed by alcoholism and suicides are doing well. The work done by
the Security Forces to eradicate illegal drugs by destroying cannabis
cultivations has also helped significantly for the betterment of these
Women have shown their strength by constructing tanks themselves
without the assistance of men. Women are well ahead of men now. They
have more will power, dedication and understanding. It is men who need
to be educated and need to attend awareness raising programs.
The gravest problem lies with the women in the LTTE clutches. What
the LTTE is doing right now is very inhuman and against all the rules
and ethics of the world.
I strongly condemn the use of that 12 year old girl as a human bomb.
She begged for mercy from the Armed Forces just minutes before the LTTE
activated her suicide jacket and killed her. Our Armed Forces are doing
their best to ensure the safety and welfare of women.
They sometimes carry pregnant women in their arms. Obtaining adequate
sanitary needs was another major problem faced by women in welfare
camps. The Child Development and Women’s Empowerment Ministry has sent
two lorry loads of such items to them so far and continues to send them.
The other problem is stranded LTTE terrorists killing and injuring
innocent people in the areas such as Yala. Since the LTTE is going to be
eradicated very soon, they are desperate and are killing innocent
civilians. Very recently, such terrorists killed several women and
children in a village and also killed several farmers who were working
in a chena.
Q : What happened to the Cabinet Paper presented by you seeking death
penalty for criminals who murder children and women?
A : I presented that Cabinet paper and obtained Cabinet approval to
impose life imprisonment on murderers of children and women. I made the
request for the death penalty but I think life imprisonment has a better
impact on that type of criminals because then they have the time to
realise the gravity of the crimes they committed. So the punishment is
adequate for the time being.
Q : What is the latest development in connection with increasing
female participation in politics?
A : Many women contested the last Provincial Council Elections and
they all won and only one or two were defeated. One of them was among
the top ten of the 18 elected members. It shows that more women are
coming into politics.
There is a Parliamentary Forum on this issue and I hold the
Chairmanship of that forum. All women Parliamentarians are in that forum
representing all political parties. Even Tamil women MPs are there.
The members of this forum went abroad to study the situation of those
They saw that many countries have already allocated 30 per cent
representation for women in their Parliaments. Women hold very important
ministries such as Defence and Justice and in some countries women hold
the post of Speaker of Parliament.
Women are very powerful and in top decision making positions in
countries such as South Africa and Uganda. In comparison with such
countries Sri Lanka stands lagging behind.
Women do not like to come into active politics under the existing
system because it needs a large amount of funds and most of the time
money wins over hard and good work.
The Ministry had a UNDP assisted project on increasing women’s
representation in politics.
Q : You held the same post more than once in the past. Apart from
various services done for the betterment of women and children, what
else can you do to ensure their safety and well-being?
A : It is the law. Law is the problem. Sometimes the delay in legal
procedures causes more problems for victimized girls than doing any good
to them. Such Court cases drag on for over 20 years. For example a
14-year-old-girl was raped and there was a Court case in connection with
Rural women contribute largely to the
When years passed by somehow the victim managed to get married and
had two kids.
While she was leading a happy married life, the Court case came up
again after many years. The girl faced a very unfortunate situation and
her married life was destroyed because of that case. Medical reports get
delayed for years.
The DNA test result of the girl who was murdered in a paddy field a
long time ago is still pending. This is how our judiciary functions
I personally made a request to the Chief Justice to get rid of all
unnecessary delays caused by existing laws in connection with women’s
I requested him to formulate a system to solve such cases at least
within a period of two years.
Discussions had also been conducted with the Justice Ministry and
other relevant institutions in this regard. We cannot let the victimised
females subject to more verbal and mental harassment because of the
delays in litigation.
Q : How are you going to assist women and children affected by
A : Various types of assistance have been made available for the
children and women affected by the LTTE terrorists. They have been given
scholarships and houses.
The children who lost parents will be educated. The NCPA is also
rendering a significant service for them. A special program will be
formulated shortly to assist the displaced women. Any woman in Sri Lanka
can submit her problem to the Child Development and Women’s Empowerment
Minister every Wednesday from morning to evening.
All such problems will be looked into or forwarded to relevant
institutions if the Ministry itself cannot solve such a problem.