Colombo Telegraph

Dear Rosy, Is Beauty Only Skin-Deep?

By Visakha Tillekeratne, Janakie Abeywardane and Prema Gamage

Open Letter to Rosy Senanayake on your Satana Program Response regarding Vidya

Mrs Rosy Senanayake

State Minister for Child Affairs

Dear Mrs Senanayake,

It was with much interest that we looked forward to your participation in the Satana Program of 28 May 2015 on the burning topic of “Ethics, the law and the death of Vidya”. We did not expect much from Mrs Vijayakala Maheswaran nor Mr Ranjith Soysa. However many of us were disappointed with your response. Of course at the time we had forgotten that even when you were faced with verbal sexual harassment from former Minister Kumara Welgama, you didn’t address it seriously enough. You also did not object to sexually coloured comments directly made to the participants by Mr Mervyn Silva, where you too were in the panel of judges at a reality show. Furthermore, when you were affronted by Mr S. B Dissanayake’s uncouth comments to Ms Chandrika Kumaranatunga, did you raise your objections?

Cultivate real knowledge

Despite the fact that you have been exposed to the discourse on gender based violence over a long time and despite the fact that you were a significant part of the Women’s Commission set up by Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe and even being one of the co-chairs of the Women Parliamentarian’s caucas, you seem not to have grasped the fundamentals behind gender based violence. It will be good for a start for all 13 women parliamentarians to have a close mentoring from Mr Bimal Ratnayake, who seemed to have an in depth knowledge and able to properly analyse the situation and the social landscape. The rest of the Parliamentarians should follow.

Understanding the root causes and the analysis

As Bimal Ratnayake clearly explained, the fundamental cause of such a happening is the unequal power relations between men and women. These unequal relations have entered the institutions and fabric of society. So much so that the information of the missing girl was disregarded by the Police as the girl having eloped. The portrayal of the girl on media was a reflection of how men view women – as playthings, as chattels. We can go on and we should analyse the issues from governance to parenting.

Gaining political mileage

It was sad that you attempted to gain political mileage on the body of Vidya. This clearly portrays a lack of sensitivity and commitment. It also puts a question mark on the ethics of life that you follow in gaining such mileage. To be honest to your mandate for children and humanity as whole it will be good to gain in depth knowledge on this deep seated issue as mentioned above and look at solutions based on the analysis and evidence. If you imagine that printing a booklet is the means to an end of a scourge, that thinking is rather naïve.

Action

Being the State Minister of Child Affairs, you together with the Minister of Women’s Affairs should put the following into action for a sustainable solution:

1. Convene a multi sector body to look at the social determinants of violence and design a multi sectoral response. This should include Education, Media, Finance, Samurdhi, Justice, the forces particularly police, Health, Local Government to name but a few. Activities should permeate to the grassroots.

2. Make gender disaggregated databases readily available at all levels.

3. Strengthen the women’s and children’s desks in Police stations in a meaningful manner. Much research has been done and actions can be based on weaknesses identified.

4. Practical gender learning programs should be designed for all parliamentarians and decision makers, not to engage on myth based thinking

5. Make engaging men and boys in the way forward for reducing gender based violence.

Please don’t let the saying “beauty is only skin deep” hold true in your case. Make sure that beauty and real brainwork is the sustainable way to empowering women and girl children.

Best regards,

Visakha Tillekeratne, Janakie Abeywardane and Prema Gamage

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