Halt to domestic violence
The appeal made
by actress turned politician Upeksha Swarnamali for all MPs to
unite against domestic violence hopefully will receive the
serious attention it deserves. Making her maiden speech after
being discharged from hospital in Parliament on Wednesday
Swarnamali a victim of domestic violence herself made the
stunning disclosure that 60 percent of Sri Lankan women were
subject to domestic violence - 44 percent of them expectant
mothers. This is all the more regrettable considering the
exalted position accorded to women in Sri Lankan society and
local culture and considering the preeminent role of the woman
on the domestic front.
Therefore the matter should engage the attention of all those
in responsible positions and measures taken to alleviate the
suffering of women folk in our society who are increasingly
being subjected to domestic violence and cruel treatment. Like
the MP said it is just not alcoholism that is responsible for
violence against women. Poverty, economic pressures and
psychological factors too play a part.
It is no more a simple and straightforward matter, with
domestic violence taking various forms and dimensions. All such
matters should be addressed professionally if we are to contain
the increasing incidents of violence against women in Sri Lankan
True, violence against women is a common phenomenon in Asia
particularly in backward communities. But compared to the rest
we had a unique reputation for treating our women with dignity
and respect. We should not sully that reputation by allowing
things to continue as they are.
There is a need for a strong institutional mechanism to be
set up to deal with the whole gamut of problems associated with
violence against women. This should include provision for
appropriate counselling and mediation. Nothing short of a
holistical solution will suffice. We should not allow violence
against women to be a blot on our cherished cultural values and
social order that have come in for high praise. But at the rate
women are subject to harassment and cruel treatment in our
country we are soon bound to lose this honour.
Lankan women have been subjected to the worse forms of
indignities in recent times not only on the domestic front. We
read almost on a daily basis of ordeals suffered by returning
housemaids some with nails embedded in their bodies. It is
tragic indeed that women who contribute immensely to the
national economy are being subjected to such torture and
battered on all fronts. They need to be treated with dignity and
honour considering their preeminent position in our cultural
It is our women in most cases who keep the home fires burning
even slaving in far off countries. They also slave on the
domestic front to supplement the meagre incomes of the family.
But today it is no secret that there are a large number of
battered wives who suffer in silence - victims of alcoholic
husbands. The statistics speaks for itself. They are also
subjected to humiliation in public transport at the hands of
perverts and sadists further degrading their status. It is not
just physical battering that our women are subjected to. Our
women are also put through the worst ordeals, forced to
undertake various chores to fight poverty.
It is only the other day that we celebrated International
Women's Day on a grand scale with State patronage. But the
question to be asked is if the pledges and resolutions made to
improve the lot of our women at such events are really being
implemented. Not so going by the above statistics according to
which the plight of our women remains unchanged or even worse.
Therefore whatever solution to arrest this trend should
invariably take into account the root causes that give rise to
this phenomenon. The Women's Bureau should play a more active
role in looking into the plight of women subjected to domestic
violence. Steps should be taken to make victims more aware of
the relief that is available to them through the State. This
matter should be tackled as a matter of urgency since domestic
violence affects the entire family unit where the children are
likely to go astray or suffer psychological scars which could
have an impact on their future lives.
Research has found that most society misfits and those with a
criminal bent are invariably those who come from broken homes
where the family institution had collapsed. Hence the need to go
deeper in to this problem so that a healthy society free of
domestic violence could be created.
Not only domestic violence discrimination and abuse of women
in all forms should be dealt with if we are to restore the
dignity attached to the Lankan woman.