Harassment and the role of the Sri Lankan woman as a traditional
Gender equality is a common problem these days in the modern world,
and there are many feminists who give their genuine opinions on this
subject. Some are really passionate about it, while others are in the
middle path, having a mild opinion about women's issues.
Women's education levels in the Third World and developing countries
are increasing, and compared with countries such as Bangladesh and
India, Sri Lanka has a higher literacy rate, and women are encouraged to
proceed further with their studies.
It is questionable whether it is due to the lack of education that we
see rape and murder cases shown in the media almost on a daily basis, be
it the print media, electronic or social media.
Prof Kshanika Hirimburegama
It has become a menace in today's world. Last week we discussed the
legal aspects of women's rights and harassment and the consequences
resulting in harassing a woman. Do women provoke men to behave like
this? Is it their social background, their upbringing or their
mentality? Is there a psychological aspect to it too?
We have seen how women get tortured even at the workplace, in public
places such as public transport, or even at home. In the western
countries, due respect is given to the women and there are women who
hold top positions in those countries.
In Asian culture the concept 'the man dominates' still exists. But do
they have the right to take advantage of that issue and ridicule, insult
and abuse women?
In work places some women get insulted and blamed by seniors in
unpardonable language and some male counterparts of our society seem to
gain pleasure and confidence by abusing, ridiculing and insulting women.
This can be taken as a certain inferiority complex, where they lack
confidence, a proper personality, self esteem and establishment. When
they see woman counterparts more competent, they gain their confidence
and pleasure by ridiculing and demeaning other people, especially women.
"Insulting and ridiculing women in public only shows the social
background which they come from, and also their upbringing. And we see
certain instances where they try to take advantage of a newcomer,
especially if it's a female" , this is the view of a Sociologist.
To get a better place and some recognition some females react, while
those who stand up against all odds get harassed.
The Asian culture has different views on woman and marriage as well.
The "dowry" problem exists in Asian countries, with marriage proposals
filling the newspapers which is already becoming a business.
In Asian society, if a woman is not married, it is an issue. Society
queries as to "why aren't you getting married" "do you have a boyfriend"
till it turns out to be a mental pressure on the woman.
The mentality and the frustration is evident, and also the cultural
set up in the Asian society has made women dependent on males.
Preserving the tradition and culture is a good thing, but a genuine
feminist may think it is a social injustice on women. In some parts of
India, being born a girl is a curse.
Gender equality has been there for generations, and in history too,
we have seen certain women who stood up against this concept. Many women
intellectuals express their views in different ways.
The Sunday Observer had a chance of having a discussion on this issue
with Prof. Kshanika Hirimburegama, Chairperson of the University Grants
Commission and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo. She
says that the woman who is a mother plays a major role in the family and
women must play the role given to them by nature accordingly.
Above all, it is the role given by nature to a woman. The woman's
responsibility is to play this role cleverly and intelligently, without
allowing emotions to take over.
For example, she says, we have seen that the unity of a family lies
with the woman, and she has to consider her role as a woman, built with
In a successful family, the woman, or the mother tolerates
unhappiness, all the problems, disaster and plays an active role. She is
patient and suffers the rough and tumble of family life.
I can also say that in most instances when there are issues in a
family the ultimate cause is the woman it is the woman who causes
issues. She is the person who takes care of the family and raises a
family. A successful family depends on the role of the woman.
We have seen how some women continuously watch TV and neglect the
family. She is only concerned about watching teledramas. Furthermore,
mothers should dress their daughters well. They should wear decent
clothes which do not expose their bodies and provoke men.
If the mother is watching teledramas and allows her daughters to
dress inappropriately, how can she be a good mother? Can we blame the
daughters for that?
Near school gates we see mothers gossiping about others. It is
questionable if they are acting with responsibility. She says with
respect to gender, she has not felt it much. "If I am competent, if I am
capable, I have the belief I can move forward". Prof Hirimburegama says
that she too has faced such problems and has dealt quietly and cleverly
with such issues.
Regarding inferiority complexes, Prof. Hirimburegama said it can be
seen in men and women. This can be seen in the way they had been brought
up, the environment, and also the social and family background. Related
to science, it is scientifically the "Phenotype".
Women should be respected in their roles. When men find the woman is
competent, they regard it as some kind of a threat. I have gone through
In politics, especially in Sri Lanka, it is difficult for a woman to
compete. As for those already in politics, I respect them. Some men
cannot take responsibilities. They have a different attitude and want to
live in a carefree manner.
Women are biologically capable of handling issues. The Government
should create day care centers, so that mothers could do their work at
their convenience, and also protect young children. These were the
candid views of Prof Hirimburegama about the gender issue. This issue is
viewed through different angles by intellectuals in society.