‘Education, best tool to uplift women’s status’ -AG
General Eva Wanasundara
Attorney General Eva Wanasundara who delivered the keynote address at
the International Women’s Day celebrations held at the Temple Trees on
March 08, 2012,emphasized the significance of laws regarding women in
She said that this year is quite noteworthy to Sri Lankan women since
for the first time in the country’s history; the legal field is governed
by women. The legal field is cradle rocked by women today. The highest
positions in the law field, Chief Justice, Attorney General, Legal
Draftsman and the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice are all held by
According to Wanasundara, when looking through the legal eye the main
document addressing the protection of women’s rights, the United
Nation’s Universal declaration clearly states that women should not be
treated differently. The constitution of Sri Lanka too clearly states
that women should not be treated differently based on gender. If women
are discriminated based on gender by government officials, it would be a
human rights violation.
As she noted, when looking at the society, it is evident that
institutions of justice are approached by hundreds and thousands of
women seeking legal aid. Sexual harassment against women and domestic
violence are the common fate for many women.
“I should say that most of the young girls are subjected to sexual
violence when they lose their mother’s love and care. In most cases of
sexual abuse, young girls fall prey as they try to seek love from the
outsiders which they must receive from home. It is evident that many
mothers knowingly or unknowingly let their daughters wander freely. Most
of the times sexual abuse is not committed by strangers, but usually the
culprit is a close person such as, mother’s second husband, neighbor,
shop owner, tuition teacher, a member of the clergy or a boy friend. So
I highly advise mothers to look after their daughters well.
Because even when the predator is convicted does that reduce the
humiliation disgrace your daughter faces?” she quesrioned.
“Under the Sri Lankan law, any sexual act with a 16 year old girl,
with or without her consent is considered rape. When such person is
convicted for an act of rape, this becomes a lesson to society to
decrease the occurrence of rape.
However it is a well-known saying that once a girl is raped and she
heads to court then she has been raped twice. What this means is that by
having to open up her soul in the name of
law, she is scared of life. No matter how cruel the act is, it is the
complainant’s responsibility to prove it in front of the law beyond
reasonable doubt”, Wanasundara said.
She convinced the fact that, being in a civilized and a ethical
society, abuses must not be taken place and even if they occur our duty
is to look at the problem is a better manner considering the victim as
our own daughter or sister. Since the society condemns and insults the
victims, they are often reluctant to come forward and seek legal aid.
She explained that the situation becomes worse if a girl gets
pregnant due to rape. She highlighted that, today’s discussions among
expert groups which take place in Sri Lanka headed by Secretary to the
MCDWA, whether any 16 year old impregnated by rape after a medical
examination should be granted a legal abortion is a timely need.
According to her, when above the age of 16 a sexual act to be considered
rape, whether her consent was given or not is eminent. It is the court
which decides whether consent was given or not. This takes time and by
the time pregnancy may have come to term. So there is a practical
difficulty in granting a legal abortion in such cases.
Another main issue women face is, domestic violence which has become
a part of some older women’s lives. They keep silent which makes the
Most probably this happens because wife loses her voice in the face
of her husband’s financial power, social power and professional status.
It is better to find a solution through negotiations without seeking
legal aid at once. The other case is sexual violence against women which
could be in form of words, looks, glances or in physical acts such as
The law in Sri Lanka considers all these acts as abuse, punishable by
“I know well that even though there are laws and punishments for
these acts, the time it takes to finish the legal work increases a
victim’s mental stress by 2 or 3 folds. 40 percent of the cases in our
High Courts are cases of sexual abuse against children and women. Since
the same courts hear other criminal cases in the country it takes time
to finish cases regarding sexual abuse”, she stated.
Her personal belief is, laws and punishments are not the ultimate
solutions for these problems.
But women themselves can also be wise to get rid of the problems.
Education is the best tool to uplift women’s status.
Women as a whole should aim to use their capabilities to move
forward, build social skills and receive decision making authority
similar to men.
Equivalent of International Women’s Day:
A voice for men
Almost a week after the world celebrated International Women’s Day,
the question continues to be asked, mostly by men, if there is an
international day for men too? Surprise! Yes, there is.
But few of us know there is one. Thus it was that the Twitter sphere
was abuzz with questions in the wake of March 8, which saw the world
celebrating women’s political, social and economic achievements. “In the
interest of fairness and equality shouldn’t there be an International
Men’s Day as well?” asked one Tweet. “Why do women have an international
celebration and not men?” questioned another.
Yet others made statements: “Men’s contributions and concerns deserve
a day of recognition in their own right”, said one. “Dear clueless men
lamenting the lack of an International Men’s Day, there is one.
Independence Day” suggested another.
Yet, inevitably, the commonest responses to the question, when is
International Men’s Day, were the stock replies: 1)ÓI thought every day
was International Men’s Day!Ó2) “the other 365. lol”.
There are few among us who would dispute this statement. It is a fact
that for 365 days a year, men dominate almost every public sphere in
society from politics to economics to the entertainment industry and
But for a growing number of men, apparently the issue that matters is
not who is doing the talking, but what they are (not) talking about. For
individually or collectively, the one thing men would like to do but has
never been given the chance to do so, is talk about their problems.
The solution. November 19 which marks International Day for Men.
According to the New York Times of Feb, 24, 1969 calls for an
International Men’s Day have been going on since at least the 1960’s
when it was reported that “Many men have been agitating privately to
(have an) International Men’s Day, the equivalent of March 8, which is
International Women’s day”. But it was only in 1999 that a date was set
to celebrate IMD, with the UN’s blessings.
|“International Men’s Day has the potential to become the global
medium to heal our world. The concept and
International Men’s Day Symbol
themes of IMD are designed to
give hope to the depressed, faith to the lonely, comfort to the
broken-hearted, transcend barriers, eliminate stereotypes and create a
more caring humanity. Since its inception, IMD has blossomed into a
movement which promotes goodwill and positively transformed the lives of
many persons. Every year I am overjoyed to witness and read testimonies
of persons who genuinely believe that the observance of IMD has resulted
in greater stability in their lives and guided them from darkness into
Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh,
Founder, International Men’s Day
The founder of International Men’s Day was Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, an
academic from Port of Spain, Trinidad, who envisioned one day of the
year when the world would address male gender-specific problems and
celebrate positive male role models. On the date of his late father’s
birthday, 19 November, he organised an event at Port of Spain
University. In the 12 years since, International Men’s Day (IMD) has
spread to at least 50 countries, yet despite winning the approval of the
UN, it is far from the best publicised or funded event on the global
So what should be up for discussion on IMD ? Male-specific health
issues are the most obvious answer. Sociologists also point out that the
day should focus on political issues: toleration of prison rape; child
visitation and custody policy; underachievement of boys in education;
death and injury at work; provision of domestic violence and abuse
services to male victims. They also suggest the day should be an
occasion when men may highlight discrimination against them and
celebrate their positive achievements and contributions to communities,
places of work, friendships, families, marriages, and child care.
Advocates of IMD (as opposed to those who do not think such a day is
necessary) also say that society would benefit as a whole from an annual
opportunity to acknowledge the breadwinner of the family or the father
who stays at home to look after the children. Or in a more traditional
vein, the men who risk their lives daily as fire fighters or security
officers, doing the most dangerous and frightening jobs, often with
As writer Ally Fogg points out in his article “Mocking International
Men’s Day only proves it is needed”, “there is plenty to admire and
cherish in traditional masculine roles, from courage and strength to
stoicism and self-sacrifice, and the key may be to find ways to
incorporate the best of what we used to be with the best of what we
would like to be.
To do so requires opening spaces for discussion, not being afraid to
lift the lid on some wormy cans, and talk positively about what it means
to be a man. IMD might be a good place to start.”
Come November 19, let us not forget to felicitate the men in our
Equal rights to land vital
She is a Mother, wife, she is a daughter, she is a sister, she is a
friend, she is an employee and she is a boss but above all she is a
woman. The Global initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is
a non profit, non governmental organization registered in the United
States in 2011, takes an interest in all women. The Global Initiative
has a special interest in advancing women’s land and property rights.
The realization of women’s ESC rights can itself be transformative , not
only in ensuring that women’s immediate material needs are met , but
also in fundamentally reshaping unequal power relationships.
We know that certain rights are especially transformative from the
standpoint of women’s empowerment, including equal rights over housing,
land and property. For women, advancements on these critical issues is
more than about poverty alleviation, it is about uplifting women’s
status in a fundamental way and about ending women’s subjugation on the
basis of gender.
“Equal rights to land are vital to gender equality, and to empowering
women. These rights enable women to build a better life for themselves
and their families, to secure an income and to put food on their tables.
These rights enable women to gain access to many benefits and services
the state and others may offer, such as credits, loans, mortgages and
housing” said Consultant,Global Initiative on Economic Social and
Cultural Rights, Shyamala Gomez at a recent panel discussion.
The Head of the Household concept is particularly detrimental towards
women in this regard. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women Committee has recommended that the Head of
the Household concept should be abolished from administrative practice
in Sri Lanka due to the following findings of the committee:
* Gender stereo typing of women is common among the general public
and the media and leads to the discrimination of women by men.
* HoH is generally considered to be a male, and females in families
are marginalized as a result of that assumption
* Many women who were widowed due to the conflict and the Tsunami of
2004 are prevented from accessing services offered by the state due to
the use of HoH concept in administrative practice
* When the state issues land ownership certificates, they are issued
to the HoH. Due to the assumption that a man is the HoH, women have been
prevented from acquiring ownership of such land.
Additionally the committee recommended that :
* The status of women heads of households should be improved by the
state through tailor made policies and programs
* That measures should be adopted to promote a positive and non-
stereotypical image of women in Sri Lankan society
Today women are routinely excluded from land ownership, and land
titles are most often registered only in the names of men as they are
considered the Head of the Household.
Banks’ macho culture ‘holds women back’
Fall in number of women at management board level last year, 17 FTSE
100 firms had no top female executives.
Banking’s “macho culture” is the biggest barrier to women reaching
the top, according to a report published arguing that quotas for women
executives are not the solution for Britain’s unbalanced boardrooms.
The Institute of Leadership and Management, UK warned that
organisations are “filtering out” top female talent at all levels.
Charles Elvin, its chief executive, said enforced quotas to increase
the number of women executives are “patronising” and unpopular with both
sexes. Instead he called for changes to attitudes and management
processes, more flexible working, and a genuine meritocracy. The ILM’s
survey of 800 men and women found that nearly half of women working in
banking believe they face career barriers because of their gender, and
more than one-third of men agree. Nearly three-quarters of women, and
half of men, blamed the attitudes of senior male managers.
The greater number of men in senior roles, organisational culture,
lack of flexible working opportunities and shortage of female role
models were seen as the other main barriers to women’s career
The ILM survey is published a day before the Cranfield School of
Management releases its annual Female FTSE report, on the number of
female executives on the boards of Britain’s top 100 companies. It will
show whether the City will hit the government’s goal for 25% of
boardroom directors to be female by 2015.
Research from the recruitment firm Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann found
that female representation on the management board, which sits just
below the main company board, actually fell by 2.2% last year, despite
an increase at the most senior level from 12.5% to 15%. It said 17 FTSE
100 companies have no female executives on the management board,
including Associated British Foods, WM Morrison, Shell, Tate & Lyle and
Rather than a single “glass ceiling”, the ILM sees a series of
barriers that filter out female talent at each stage of the management
hierarchy, mainly due to the attitudes and behaviour of senior managers.
Elvin spoke of a form of brain drain. “It is in danger of being
really quite a dreadful waste if you are losing very, very competent
people all the way through the process, several steps before the board,”
“It is bad for the organisation, bad for the country and bad for
Overall, 87% of women felt that some form of positive action was
needed, compared to two-thirds of men. Flexible working was identified
as the number one solution by 68% of women, compared to 42% of men.
Just 19% of women and 10% of men felt quotas should be introduced to
increase the number of women in senior roles.
Elvin said the government should lead the way by training the
managers in government-funded organisations to “manage flexibly” across
both genders – focused on “achieving objectives rather than sitting in
your seat” – and to make sure employees are hired and retained on the
basis of merit.
Flexible working should apply to both men and women.
“It is completely inappropriate for people to look at a person of
child-bearing age in a different way,” he added. Women tended to be less
confident, partly due to a lack of female role models, and needed more
support, he added.