26 May, 2022


A New Sri Lanka For Women

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass Usuf

International Women’s Day (March 8) according to the IWD website is ‘a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity’. The story of the woman throughout history has been one of gross abuse of her status. She had been accused as a temptress, as responsible for the original sin, valued as a chattel and, even today, considered the weaker of the two sexes. The indomitable spirit of endurance in her to survive this relentless antagonism displayed against her position in society, teaches us one simple lesson. She is the stronger of the two.

Physical strength is brutish. Mental strength is sagacity. The woman is endowed with the latter quality in abundance and it is amply proven by her ability to nurture society.

A man came to the Prophet Muhammed and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Source: Bukhari)

From Oppression To Liberation

There is of course a distinction between equality and identicalness. The woman is constrained by natural restrictions like menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, child rearing, breast feeding et cetera. The conventional role optimally was minding the home, bringing up children and ensuring the happiness of the family. This was considered the most honourable work. She constituted the foundation of the nucleus family extending to the larger society. The feminists like a pendulum swung from one extreme to the other. From ‘oppression’ to ‘liberation’; The famous Bra burning in the 1960s, as a statement for women’s rights. However, the haphazard change in the traditionally accepted masculine and feminine roles opened up for her entry into the areas of the male. One view indicates this transition akin to the role of androgynous men and women.

Tired Mother And Wife

This role modification at times became an unwholesome addition to her onerous work in the house. Gender equality in the work place gave her the feel of self-esteem but with negative consequences. It affected family life, deprived quality time for children and made her a tired mother and wife at the end of each day. It is argued that the clamour to end discriminative gender roles culminated in the woman becoming further oppressed. It is not rare to hear a woman saying, “I wish I can stay at home”.

The behaviour of men and women display a paradoxical quality. For example, a woman who reads romances and fantasizes about her prince may be the same woman who during the day is an aggressive women’s rights activist. The man who is an advocate of equality of women may still see a centrefold more as a sex object than as a person. “Implicit in our gender role socialization is the belief that males ought to adopt a traditionally masculine gender role and females a traditionally feminine one because everyone will get along much better that way.” (Ickes (1981, 19855) & Barnes, 1978).

The ‘Pill’ and Safe Sex

The invention of the ‘pill’ in the 1960’s gave the woman sexual freedom to have safe sex. It enabled women to fully enjoy sexual relations without fear of unwanted pregnancy. This had its repercussions too. Women liberated themselves from one thing but were enslaved by something else. Research indicates that in 1960 with the advent of the contraceptive pill, usage was recorded at 400,000. Five years later in 1965, this figure shot up to 6.5 million users in the U.S.A. Sexual repression was met with the ‘sexual revolution’, ‘free love’ and ‘women’s lib’. Promiscuity progressed rampantly and pornography being the ultimate destination where women have been completely dehumanised and treated degradingly. “Sexual intercourse is rapidly becoming the one thing venerated in a world without veneration.” (C.S. Lewis, Miracles).

Cultural Feminism acknowledges that women are “inherently kinder and gentler” along with the socio-moral perception of ‘good girl’, ‘good mother’, ‘good wife’. This inherent disposition in woman was destroyed by the earlier lopsided Radical Feminism. These radicals were competing for space in the male dominated economic, social and political spheres. This shift created other challenges for her especially, exploitation. She was sucked into being made a commercial sex object. The media decided for her to be thin or fat. She was influenced on her choice of dress and on the accessories to beautify herself. In those decades, the physical appearance of women was how thin they wanted to be. Women started getting eating disorders (Anorexia nervosa) and diseases from trying to fit that “perfect image” for everyone but themselves. Basically, her self-esteem was boosted not by doing what she wanted but by what and how others wanted her to present herself.

Commendable Achievements

The oppression and mistreatment of women is unjust and inhuman. It must be said that not everything about feminism was bad, negative or useless. They had to struggle and they did struggle. They had some just causes and creditably have achieved success in their fight – Equal pay, career opportunities, corporate positions, political engagement among other things. These are very commendable and praiseworthy. Ignorant males who do not value women always take unjust advantage over her. High handed patriarchy certainly contributes to damage the masculine feminine relationship.

A New Sri Lanka for Women

Research suggests that Gender-based violence (GBV) including Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) or Domestic Violence (DV) is reported to be high and widespread in Sri Lanka. “An unprecedented UN study of 10,000 men in Asia and the Pacific, released today, found that, on average, half of those interviewed reported using physical and/or sexual violence against a female partner”. (UN Women, 13.09.2013). Several reasons are attributed including alcohol, drug abuse, unemployment, depression and childhood experiences of violence. It is not unique to a single class, race, ethnicity or religion. A woman who is often abused suffers both physically and emotionally.

She is not only vulnerable to IPV or DV but also exposed to sexual harassment and abuse by office colleagues, community members, armed forces and the Police.

One of the promises made by President Maithripala Sirisena during his election campaign was the pledge for ‘A New Sri Lanka for Women’. In connection to these pledges, Verite Research in its 2016 report records, “Out of the nine pledges selected for this report, five have been classified as ‘in progress’ and the remaining four have been classified as ‘no progress’. Mr. President, there is obviously a need to activate the ‘no progress’ pledges.

In addition to the application of several human rights principles embedded in international conventions to which Sri Lanka is also a signatory, the Constitution in Article 11 (1) states:

“No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Also, Article12 (1) states : “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law”.

There is also the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act No. 34 of 2005.

Kind, Gentle and Forbearing

The majority of women in Sri Lanka fall into that traditional role of women and they are happy. Especially so from the viewpoint of our Eastern customs, traditional and religious backgrounds. However, male chauvinism should be placed under control since they exploit and take undue advantage of the kindness, gentleness and patience of our women folk.

On the other hand, too much legal pressure on the man may lead to increased threats of violence, abandonment or exploitation by man. Some power and influence wielding women too are alleged to misuse the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to get a protection order to get rid of the husband. They are allegedly motivated by extra-marital affairs, property related issues etc. It has to be appreciated that these relationships cannot be dictated by legal strictures and by ideals of women’s rights. These are matters of an intimate and personal nature. A mixture of love, care, concern, respect, responsibility and peer influence are vital. Laws and the Rights must be adapted to help and not to worsen the situation. Counselling, family mediation and arbitration are also available pathways.

Traumatised Or Humiliated

In one instance, a husband who used to maintain his family well was summoned to the Police Station on a complain made by the wife at the instigation of the in laws. The complaint was frequent quarrelling. At the Police Station he was addressed in humiliating words in the presence of his wife and warned. From that day, he never sighted the family and they are now suffering. I asked him, why he does not visit the family? His answer was clear and simple. His ego badly hurt. He said, “how do you expect me to share the bed with a woman who exposes me and have me humiliated by an unknown man (Policeman) in front of everybody”. There is no doubt, that he should be held responsible for his actions but, an abusive husband needs mental health assistance and not humiliation.

Similarly, issuance of Protection Orders under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act may not be helpful most of the time. Firstly, it will antagonise the man and, secondly, worsen an already bad situation. This is the reality and it is a delicate balancing act. The Police are in no way suitable to handle domestic related issues of a personal nature unless they are specially trained for this duty only. Generally, they end up traumatising the victim (woman) or humiliating the abuser (man).

National Action Plan

In November, last year, the National Action Plan (NAP) to address Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) was officially launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The (NAP) was developed with the vision of creating “a violence free life for women and children” with Zero Tolerance for Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Sri Lanka. It is too early to assess the progress made in this regard.

Hon. Chandrani Bandara, Minister of Women and Child Affairs made a proposal on February 2017, to the Cabinet to establish a National Commission on Women, which was approved. As prevailing institutions on women’s affairs has no legal power to address the increasing violence against women.

Passing legislations and appointing Commissioners alone is inadequate. These should be supported by the establishment of suitable institutions and broad structural reforms to support implementation – availability of dedicated centres, required facilities, experienced counsellors, trained personnel and the energising of the Rule of Law. Further, the practical realities faced by the average woman has to be studied in-depth Sectorally with focus on socio-economic, cultural, traditional and familial relationship of the family unit.

War Widows

Quite apart from violence against women is the issue of war widows who are estimated to be above 80,000 after the end of the war in May 2009. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), identified war widows as a vulnerable group facing serious difficulties for economic survival. These women, too, are in need of general security, socio-economic support for their wellbeing and personal safety.

Bold decisions have to be taken. And, they should be taken now without delay in order to bring the promise of a new Sri Lanka for the women.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 5

    Damn, when all these issues related to SL women are boiling at elevation, why do some people choose to talk about MMDA and Muslim women rights, while the majority of Muslim women enjoy being what they are now???

    Probably Islam is involved in it and cursing Islam is sort of an indispensable fashion nowadays?

    • 2

      Mass L. Usuf

      RE: A New Sri Lanka For Women

      A New Sri Lanka For MUSLIM Women, to be treated as Chattel, owned and operated by Males, under the supervision of the Ulama,?

      That is what the Sri Lankan Muslim women have curretly. Being Chattel, slaves.

      Will a New Sri Lanka be the same, courtesy of the Ulama, Mullah and Imams, who thinks that the earth was spread out like a carpet, the Sung goes round the earth and falls into dark waters.

      Why don’t you support the MMDA reforms? Saudi Petro Dollars? Ulama Hegemony?

      Do the Ulama have 48 Chromosomes? Or is it 46 Chromosomes?

      • 2

        Mass L. Usuf

        RE: A New Sri Lanka For Women

        A New Sri Lanka For MUSLIM Women, to be treated as Chattel, owned and operated by Males, under the supervision of the Ulama,?

        In Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive, but in Sri Lanka they can, but still Chattel per MMDA.

        Muslim protester’s get the shock of their life, with Atheists,but OK with Satan, Devil following Wahhabies and their clones. The Wahhabies and their Clones will burn in Hell for Following Satan.


        Hadith of Najd and Scholar from al-Azhar: Wahhabism is a Satanic Faith, the Horn of the Devil that Muhammad Predicted


        Published on Jun 2, 2013
        Yusri Rushdi al-Sayyid Jabr al-Husni, a Sunni Muslim religious scholar from the world’s oldest and most prestigious Islamic school, the Honorable al-Azhar, has stated that Wahhabis who are also known by other names such as Salafis, Najdis, and Horners, are in fact the Horn of the Devil, a term used by the prophet Muhammad in reference to a satanic faith that shall come out of Najd (Saudi Arabia).

    • 3

      Mass L. Usuf

      RE: A New Sri Lanka For Women

      “International Women’s Day (March 8) according to the IWD website is ‘a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity’.”

      The Sri Lankan women have “achieved” gender parity and gone beyond that.

      Alternate View. of Muslim women covered from head to toe, but not working.

      1. The are the domestic maids in the middle East.

      2, They are the Textile workers in Sri Lanka.,

      3 They are the Tea puckers in Sri Lanka.

      Question: who is looking after the Children? Men?


  • 16


    Dear readers, if you really want to understand women’s issues then please let women’s groups, activists and affected women themselves firsthand tell you what has been happening.

    Please make sure on IWD 2017 you read an article about women’s issues from women, not from men who claim to be allies but really have very little commitment and interest to listen to and address women’s issues in Sri Lanka ESPECIALLY from Muslim women of his own community.

    • 4

      Dear Concerned Sri Lankan Woman,

      Is it wrong for a man to talk good about a woman, or a woman to talk good about a man?

      When someone says something good, celebrate. Everything is not gloom and doom. Just because we encounter bad personal experiences from men, most men are decent.

  • 6

    When she is a daughter, she opens a door of Jennah (Paradise) for her Father. When she is a wife, she completes half of her Deen (Religion) of her husband. When she is a Mother, Jannah (Paradise) lies in her feet. If only everyone knew the true status of women in Islam.

    • 8

      Hussain Fahmy:

      Don’t you feel shame.

      You treat women as thrash, You males expect at the expense of women.

      Even this article by a muslim should be some setup. Muslim women in Sri lanka is treated worse or lesser harse than only to Saudi arabia.

      Muslim marraige laws in muslim countries are far humane than those in Sri lanka. Sri lankan buddhists are very weak people who allow anything to be done by other relifgions.

      Just understand, if a minority buddhists in any muslim majority country has similar rights.

      How can we discuss women’s rights in an article written by a muslim when we know muslim marraige laws are just primitive.

      • 2

        Jim sofly says
        “Don’t you feel shame. You treat women as thrash, You males expect at the expense of women”
        Oh jim are you kidding? who demand “Dewedda” dowry during marriage? Is the dowry is demanded by the girl or the boy? answer The boys demands dowry from the girl’s parent. According to Muslims law, it is forbidden (Haram) to demand dowry from the girls, because the Males are responsible tor maintaining the family, so you jim softly the pot calling the kettle black. First of all put your house in order, do not take dowry from the girls shame on you folks, do not ill treat your women by asking her to earn by going out of the house, shame on you, for sending your women to work, Islam prohibit allowing women to mix and mingle with opposite sex in the work environment., No Muslim send their woman to work to earn and living in her earning, shame on you. You better learn from the Muslims what you do not know.

        • 0

          Don’t cover up what the Muslim women are going through. I don’t agree with Jim Sofly, but I am replying you.

          Where do you get the idea that Muslim parents in Sri Lanka do not bribe men with kaikulli ( dowry) to get their daughters married. What is told in the religion is not practiced. You must talk of the reality. Most boys demand dowry or propose a girl from a rich family. Now not only the male members of the family but also the girl’s mother or even the bride goes to the Middle East to earn the dowry.

          How many Muslim men force their women to go to work, particularly to the Middle East and the men have a jolly time here with the money she earns. You are living in a fools paradise, just look around to see how many Muslim women are working in low paid jobs.Muslim women are working in various fields.

      • 0

        Jim Softy,

        First Rule in Respecting your wife / future wife: Don’t take dowry!!!

        Most of you guys don’t respect the women for her being a woman. You guys respect her for the huge dowry you got from her parents, and in some cases her monthly earning also.

        In many living cases where hubbies are bond by above scenarios, are speechless or their opinions and decisions considered immaterial in circumstances where those are mandatory.

        Being a slave and respecting your lady is different than being a responsible husband and respecting your lady. So, start your process from Rule No: 1

  • 5

    Corruption, cronyism, and nepotism block women from jobs they are qualified to do. In an era of Fake News and Fake Development Sri Lankan people think that the situation of women is great and far superior to other Asian nations. Women are harassed in public transport going to work in over crowded stinking buses and trains. There is no investment in PUBLIC TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE although UNFPA does surveys to prove the obvious. UNFPA should ask UN agencies to tell GoSL to invest in PUBLIC TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE so that women can travel to work on Public transport with less harassment.

  • 7

    In a country where animals rule how can one speak for women’s rights? Almost everywhere what one can sense is corruption, bribery, cheating mischief, disregard for status, you name it. Women are designed and programmed by the genes that we have in our human cells. These genes are capable of programming the way how everyone think and act. It is these genes that has designed the thoughts that make opposite sexes appear attractive. So the attractiveness are almost nothing to praise in the form of Taj Mahal or Romeo and Juliet etc. However the women are praise worthy for the sacrifices they make in nursing the off springs, contribution to wards social integrity, unifying families, caring for families despite the damaging challenges they face in their day to day life. It is indeed worth celebrating IWD to remember their great charm that keeps the glow in our society.

  • 9

    What a shockingly sexist piece. It is a true insult that you choose to post such an ignorant article on IWD. Very disappointed in your standards of integrity Colombo Telegraph

  • 6

    To quote Alexander Pope :

    “A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
    Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
    There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    And drinking largely sobers us again.
    Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
    In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts ;
    While from the bounded level of our mind
    Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind”

    Objectivity and empathy (not sympathy) should be your guidelines, Brother Usuf, when you attempt to write on such an important topic. It should definitely not be from the ‘bounded level’ of your (Muslim) mind.

    As a senior member of the National Shura Council, can you please tell us as to why the NSC continues to remain an ‘All-Boys Club’, when even in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, after a period of 80 years, it’s Shura Council admitted 30 women for the first time to it’s membership in 2013.

    Is this how the NSC hopes to contribute to the shaping of ‘A New Sri Lanka for Women’ ?

  • 7

    Establish a Sharia kingdom. Force women to wear the burqa or the niqab only no hijab. A certain religious pedophile had a 10 year old girl as his 4th wife. World is safer when we establish true islamic wahabism. Adulterous women will be stoned. Infidels can be raped

  • 3

    Yusuf, Either You are deluded, or you just mince words!
    You got to come out from sri lanka and read about human rights and democracy!

  • 1

    srinathan gunaratnam

    “You got to come out from sri lanka and read about human rights and democracy!”

    Do you want him to translate it in Sinhala Only (1956) for you to grasp it?

    It won’t hurt you if you haven’t got a clue about human rights and democracy. Get on with your life.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.