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DateLine Sunday, 19 August 2007

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Equal rights or due place?

Day by day years depart, seasons will come and go. Cultures, life styles and people change. Above all these needs are now very much taken for granted. What comes to my mind at this point is the role of a woman- first as a daughter she will grow up into a beautiful lady.

Then to be a wife, next the most precious title one could hold a "mother" and later on to a grand mother. According to my knowledge decades ago women have been well satisfied playing these roles in the circle of life. But as I mentioned earlier the "changes" play the most important role.

Nowadays women are fighting or rather standing up to get equal rights as men. This is where the story begins. A story which has two sides to it. The question occurs right at the beginning. Let me put it this way, is it right for women to ask for equal rights? or should it be in place? In a stereotypical society like that of Sri Lanka what's the due place.

Should someone step out of line they consider them as sort of out-laws. Most of the benefits that men enjoy women are not allowed to enjoy. Then the next question pops up, do the Sri Lankans need to under go a conceptual change? Comparing to western culture Sri Lankan women did get to achieving equal rights before others did.

Such as voting rights for women etc. Although women stand up for their rights it turns in to a conceptual issue. In another angle women themselves restrict their capabilities and freedom by entrapping themselves in the usual stereotypical role.

The Venerable Thunkama Pangnawemala of Pushparamaya Kudahella gave his views to Sunday Observer. In general worldwide non-governmental organisations are the one's who take the leadership and fight for equal rights for women. But what women need is not the equality but the due place in society.

The next point is what they expect by asking for equal rights? In our society irrespective of the gender both men and women have all the freedom to get their education, build their financial stability, choose their careers etc. Both men and women have the right to hold any position in society.

All these westernised countries do not even get the chance to texture the mothers love. Due to that reason itself their societies are plagued with myriads of crimes. But in our culture and society we already have all these along with the freedom.

Reverend Nilanga Gunasekara of Holy Emmanuel Church Moratuwa gave his perspective with regard to the above subject. He said that he cannot see such kind of problems in our society. When God created the world, he first created man, and out of his rib he created the woman.

Therefore in the bible it says they are co-partners. From their itself the equal rights have been given. Apart from the minority women of the rural areas, In the central part of the society women are very comfortable with their positions. Even the rural women rarely are out spoken with it. Normally they have accepted that what they go through is due to financial difficulties and not equality.

The cinematarian D. B. Nihalsinghe said the problem of inequality of men and women arises out of cultural traditions and biological reasons.

Women have traditionally been treated as inferior to men. In many cultures they are regarded as second class and relegated to the home, denied education. Even though there have been legends about societies where women dominated, such as amazonian, and were given superior status as warriors (as during the time of Prophet Mohommed) they were recognised as being fit to vote only in the 1930's.

That too after a sustained campaign to achieve universal suffrage in supposedly advanced societies such as Britain and US.In law men and women are generally treated as equal,(though there are exceptions in countries where there are religious restrictions).

Even so, women take a second place because of cultural taboos reinforced by biological ones. For example, women in armed forces are not sent into combat. Despite rare exceptions, women are openly discriminated in some countries such as in Japan.

What is clear is that women and men are generally equal in terms and skills and aptitudes which are not generally gender dependant but related to nature and nurture. Still, there are some biological limitations which stand in the way of equal treatment.

Women get pregnant, bare children etc. Cultural taboos which arise are ultimately the main determinant of unequal treatment of women. While in some societies women and men are treated equally, in other societies the inequalities remain. But these cultural prejudices erode in the face of free market economics.

The wife of former cricketer Hashan Thilaharathe, Apsaree gave her views. "Born in a family which never differentiate between a girl child and boy child , I strongly absorbed a culture of equality, at an early age. As I grew up I became increasingly aware of the many forms of discrimination against women that exists in families and society.

Such as domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment etc. Equality between men and women are one of the essential elements of the concept of equality. I believe the road to equality and justice is the only high way to enable human being is able to enjoy living with full dignity".

The movie actress Sangeetha Weerarathne gave her opinion. She said generally that she does not believe, to an extent that women have gained their equal rights.

"I suppose its the mentality, women can be taken for granted. But in our country we were the first to produce a woman Prime Minister. I personally feel comfortable and happy to see my husband leading our family. It depends on each individual likes and dislikes.

Finally she ended with a saying written by Margret Sanger "Woman is not needed to do a man's work. She is not needed to think man's thoughts, her mission is not to enhance masculine spirits, but to experience the feminism. Her preference should not be a man made world, but to create a human world with the feminine element".

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