Let's all be feminists
A woman is someone who silently renders an immense service to her
family, household, the society and the nation. It is because of this
silence that most of us have forgotten to celebrate womanhood with the
appreciation which she deserves. Most of us have chosen to forget the
fact that more than half of the global population itself consists of
females. But are they given an opportunity to be heard and seen? Even if
the answer to this question is "yes", one may still ask; is the
attention we give towards her sufficient?
The attitude of the Sri Lankan society towards women and their role
seems to be paradoxical to me. Whereas, we grew up learning maxims such
as 'a woman's knowledge is only as long as a spoon's handle,' while we
also learnt that "the hand that sways the cot, rules the world," it is
high time we think twice before teaching our youngsters to measure a
woman's knowledge level with a spoon-handle. The idea which such phrases
impliedly generate within one's mind is that a woman is not an
intelligent or a bold human being.
Women have shed their blood, sweat and tears throughout the history
of human civilization, for many centuries and have worked hard not for
their own betterment, but for the betterment of their family, religion,
society and their nations since times immemorial. World renowned females
who have been brave and bold enough to step outside our atmosphere and
observe the outer space such as Kalpana Chawla and Valentina Tereshkova
should equally be given respect as much as the vulnerable women who have
been pushed to situations by the society, that they are left with no
other choice than becoming a 'woman of the streets'.
The Sri Lankan context
Since the grant of Universal Franchise in 1931, Sri Lankan women have
so far been on a journey of both achievements and losses. The first ever
female head of state was born from Sri Lanka. More than 50% of the
registered candidates are female. 85% of students who achieve university
entrance are female students. Despite all these achievements, we are
forced to accept the fact that women are curtailed of the opportunities
to perform optimally by making use of their abilities and
qualifications. The level of participation of females in active politics
is still unsatisfactory.
Participation of females in the legislature is merely 5%, 3% in
Provincial Councils, and 2% in the Local Government sphere. Granting a
50-50 quota itself wouldn't seem to cater to the matter positively. Even
if it was given, it cannot be anticipated that the acceptance and
assistance which they should be given will be given to them by the
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka states that inter alia,
majority of the petitions of Human Rights violations they receive from
women is regarding attempts to gain sexual bribes when entering children
to the first grade of government schools. It is tragic to see that a
mother is unable to enter her child to a school without being subjected
to illicit and embarrassing courses of action.
A number of International Conventions and Declarations were
implemented by the international community within the past few decades
with the aim of achieving gender justice and ensuring the equal
protection of women and the girl child. Despite the abundance of
international and regional mechanisms, none of them have seemed to
achieve the expected goals, i.e. mainly to give the due acceptance to
women in the society. Domestic violence, usurpation of labour, rape and
abuse are only a few examples that show the level of women's rights
enforcement mechanisms, both locally and regionally.
It should not be misunderstood that a valid legal framework is
absent, the question remains in its enforcement. Especially, the impact
on law enforcement by religious and cultural factors can be seen mostly.
Child marriages and female genital mutilation have not yet been
eradicated from the world. Even though such practices are not seen in
the Sri Lankan society, one must not forget that women are being
differently treated in our society as well, on a daily basis.
A pledge for parity
I do not wish to deeply analyse the legal background of women's
rights. The media institutions have catered to it more than enough, and
the majority of the society is well aware of it. Such attempts by both
printed and digital media should always be appreciated, as there have
been numerous instances where women have missed their opportunities to
have access to justice due to the unawareness of the law.
Women are the initiation of new life. Without her, the whole of the
human race, but we still keep on humiliating the same species who are
the bearers of the future of human race itself. Living in a society
where women are being subjected to multiple discrimination, it is
ironical that Sri Lanka celebrated the 105th Women's Day this March 8th.
The globalised world has feminized both our education sector and our
labour force. Yet, the amount of attention and due acceptance which they
truly deserve is not granted to her. This is a matter that needs
The paradox still remains within our society where we listen to
numerous songs appreciating womanhood and motherhood, we see many
tributes to women, whilst at the same time, reports of rape, abuse and
multiple discrimination are heard island wide. Is not that a reason for
us to be ashamed of ourselves as a nation? The issue on achieving gender
parity carries out a very complex chain of questions socially,
politically and culturally. It must be understood that none of these
issues could be solved unless they are contextualized before analyzing.
The housewives who have dedicated their career goals and future plans
for a better family life, the tea-pluckers of the hillside who work day
and night for a minimum wage, the young FTZ girls who wash away their
splendid youth operating a juki sewing machine, the women who go through
inhumane treatments in the middle-east as housemaids but yet supply our
best income of foreign exchange should not be forgotten or be taken for
granted. If not for any of them, you and I would not have been living in
such luxurious conditions.
Need for a change of thoughts
It is my belief that we should all be feminists. One might even laugh
at this idea. It is wrong to think that only females should be
feminists. In simple words, a feminist is someone who strives to provide
opportunities for women to live a dignified life with their basic rights
guaranteed. If you expect your mother, sister, friend or wife to live
such a life, then I believe that you are indeed a feminist.
We have heard the slogan 'Prisoners are humans too'. Similarly, the
day our society realises that 'Women are human beings too' who are as
equally capable and courageous as men, the nation will thrive and
flourish, and will be set upon a better journey towards all-embracing