‘SL well on track in achieving key MDGs’ - Part II
Gender –sensitive projects - a priority
Text of the
speech by Plantation Industries Minister and Special Presidential Envoy
on Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe at the UN General Sessions at the
Third Committee Meeting in New York.
The objective of the project is to improve the quality of life for
conflict-affected and isolated rural poor communities, especially women,
through a community-driven, participatory livelihood development
programme linked to the rehabilitation and maintenance of rural access
roads. It is expected that gender-sensitive development projects such as
this will improve post-conflict reconstruction and also benefit those
marginalized and or deprived by the conflict.
In the post conflict scenario, the resolution of issues relating to
women is critically important. While addressing their economic
empowerment needs, we must be conscious of the need to prevent
exploitation and abuse of women. In fact in a recent engagement with
civil society representation in Colombo, several issues and allegations
were brought to our attention.
Many of the allegations cited did not include information as to the
identity of the victim, specific location, date and time of incident and
the alleged perpetrators. We invited the civil society organizations
represented to provide us with these details as well as urging them to
take measures to reach out to local avenues of assistance - the Police
and other organizations which should be the first resort of persons -
especially women - facing any difficulties.
If there are any shortcomings or lack of responsiveness, the national
government will take steps to investigate and take corrective measures.
We have taken special measures to expand women’s and children’s desks in
local police stations, especially in the former conflict affected areas
to which these complaints could have been made.
The phenomenon of female headed households in the aftermath of the
conflict poses unique challenges. The Ministry of Child Development and
Women’s Affairs is also working with UNDP and UNFPA on issues under
Security Council Resolution 1325 which are also to be incorporated
within the scope and ambit of the National Action Plan on Women.
Within the law enforcement process, when a child under 18 years or a
woman is being arrested or detained, a person of their choice must be
allowed to accompany them to the place of questioning. As far as
possible, any such child or woman arrested or detained should be placed
in the custody of a Women’s Unit of the Armed Forces or Police or in the
custody of another woman military or police officer. Such simple
guidelines on arrest and detention issued by the President, go a long
way towards protecting the rights of women and children.
In Sri Lanka’s experience - both in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean
tsunami of 2004 and in the present post-armed conflict phase - is a
problem of land title for those returning to their original places of
habitation after the lapse of a period of time.
The old concept of the ‘head of the household’ (usually the male) has
been found to be an impediment when a widow of a deceased or female
spouse of an untraceable person claims restitution, relief or
compensation. Remedial measures are being formulated to address these
One other notable result of the ending of the armed conflict and the
defeat of terrorist forces is the large number of ex-combatants that had
to be dealt with. In many cases recruitment was forced. In others false
propaganda and other forms of manipulation and coercion were utilized to
boost the cadre of the terrorists.
After the end of the conflict, it became the responsibility of the
government of Sri Lanka to take over nearly 12,000 persons who
surrendered or were taken into custody. Pursuant to a proper legal
framework being put into place, these ex-combatants - with varying
degrees of involvement in the conflict - were screened and the vast
majority submitted to rehabilitation programmes.
It is with a degree of satisfaction that I am able to inform this
Committee that we have been able to process, rehabilitate and
reintegrate 10,985 ex-combatants.
This includes 2, 240 women ex-combatants. The remaining number of
female ex-combatants undergoing rehabilitation as at October 1 was a
mere 27. Our programme was not merely aimed at weaning them away from
seeking to gain their objectives through the force of arms. Our approach
was predicated on giving them suitable education and training - opening
up choices for them to follow a productive life within their
To conclude, I have mentioned a few of the steps being taken to bring
about a transformation in the manner that women’s rights, their right to
equality, equal protection of the law and the maximization of the
options and choices available to them are sought to be promoted. Sri
Lanka appreciates the consolidation of the 4 UN gender entities into a
single strengthened UN Gender Machinery.
We do so in the belief that this consolidation will strengthen the UN
systems’ work on gender equality and the empowerment of women at the
national and international levels. Similarly, at the domestic level, we
in Sri Lanka are contemplating draft legislation aimed at the creation
of a National Commission on Women which will be the apex body for
coordinating and implementing national plans and policies and will serve
as the focal point for activities concerning women’s rights, empowerment
We are confident that, as one nation and one united people, we can
move forward in this new era of peace harnessing the talents and efforts
of all Sri Lankans - especially women - to build the new Sri Lanka.