Granted! Funds For SRHR Capacity Building.

In more exciting news, The British Council was awarding grants for several projects…and guess what, we won one too! Soon, we will be working alongside Tracy Holsinger, Ashanti, and Hashtag Generation to implement it.

Our project aims at developing tools and interfaces for girls living with hearing disabilities. We will be focusing our efforts at the Rathmalana School for the Deaf.

Starting from now, the project continues until next March. The work isn’t limited just to the girls—it will also include their teachers, instructors and mentors. After meeting the school’s board of directors, we will develop teacher training materials for the teacher training workshops, which we hope to conduct throughout April to June.

There will be focus group discussions with the children (who are mainly young girls) and their teachers, as we also work on developing material and a digital interface for students, with sign language interpretations on life skills.

We hope that this initiative will help empower girls with hearing disabilities to make informed choices about their bodies, and instill a sense of self-confidence in them. We also want to help create a safe platform for the girls to have conversations about these topics, while sensitizing and enhancing the capabilities of their teachers and instructors with regards to SRHR.

Being experts in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, three of our core group will be implementing the project: Sarah Soysa, Dulitha Jayasekara, and Dakshita Wickremarathne.

If you have any queries, please feel free to drop us a mail at , or contact us via FB and Twitter.




The Plight of the Plantation Sector and how we can Help

As the Youth Advocacy Network, we don’t just advocate for rights. We do what we can to empower people lead better lives. This includes training, mentoring, and spreading awareness—all while having regular day jobs.

One of the projects our co-founder Sarah was recently involved in was to help combat sexual and gender-based violence in the plantation sector of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka already has a Domestic Violence Act, and is a signatory to multiple international machineries and mechanisms. Yet, there is a significantly higher amount of sexual abuse and violence in the plantation sector than in other urban regions.


Well, there are multiple reasons for this. However, to put it simply, some of the biggest factors are poverty and lack of education. The plantation workers have long been an exploited segment of disenfranchised people. Though they have basic rights now (like the right to vote, and being granted Sri Lankan citizenship), they still have long, hard battles. The daily wage system is especially problematic, in addition to being geographically isolated from basic and necessary infrastructure, and not being able to communicate fluently due to language barriers.


Over 31% of women in the estate sector are underweight, as are most of their children. The under five mortality rate is 33/1000 live births as opposed to the national figure of 11/1000 live births.

Additionally, women in the estate sector have extremely low knowledge of gender-based violence, sexually transmitted disease, and related healthcare services.

Alcoholism is rampant in the estates, especially among men. 40% of the estate sector families are drinkers, compared to the 17% in urban and rural areas. This in turn leads to violence in homes.

Estate employees live in line rooms—tiny lodgings with barely any ventilation. They also lack basic facilities. Numerically, only 66.3% have sanitary facilities, 11% has clean drinking water, and 68% of the homes are equipped with electricity.

According to the poverty headcount index in 2012/13, 8.8% of the estate sector families live below the poverty line. 18% of married women between the ages of 15-49 have never been to school.

What can be done to alleviate this?

Community members stated that gender-based violence can reduce if there were effective, and active systems in place. This includes strengthening the police system and enforcing the law properly, getting the support of estate managers in resolving community issues, and ensuring male involvement in discussions.

In addition to this, everyone from children upwards should be made aware of legal repercussions as well.

This includes collective discussions with all concerned authorities. To this end, we organised sessions with

  • Public health midwives
  • Public health inspectors
  • Child development officers
  • Women development officers
  • Government Agents office staff

We covered topics ranging from sex and gender, forms of violence, the current situation in Sri Lanka, fatal and non-fatal outcomes of sexual and gender-based violence, laws and policies, how to respond, and more.

As a result

We can happily say that access to quality SGBV services for community members,
specifically, women and girls, has improved. There’s also an improvement with  Government officers and authorities, in their service delivery
skills on SGBV. They have developed non-judgemental attitudes, especially in  gender-responsive, rights-based approaches.

We did have several challenges; from being able to conduct sessions with the police, to getting permission, and developing a healthy relationship between the authorities and volunteers, especially in breaking the power-hierarchy. Not to mention it was also time consuming! However, we think we have managed to make this project sustainable, at least to a certain extent.

And we are definitely happy that we managed to help empower these communities, in a measurable way.

What we discussed on issues related to SRHR and bodily autonomy of women at the Think Tank

In September 2015 Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka initiated the National Youth champions Think Tank on unsafe abortion and network building meeting. The Youth Champions of Asia Safe Abortion Partnership and young peer educators of YPEER Sri Lanka decided to come together and form Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka with the focus on young peoples SRHR, bodily autonomy and gender equality.

The think tank had medical professionals, researchers, economists, young journalists, ministry and government representatives, Civil society organisations, National youth bodies, a medical student, a young person living with disability, lawyers and law students present at the meeting. It was such a pleasure for us at YANSL to get participants for the meeting from organisations and bodies such as the Ministry of Health, Family Health Bureau, National Committee on women, Family planning association of Sri Lanka, Women and media collective, Women in Need, The Grassrooted trust, Action Against apathy, Media, National youth services council federation of youth clubs and more.

The think tank was focused on issues related to unsafe abortion – what we as young people can do and what we need the authorities to support us with. The discussions brought up the lack of accurate information for young people on their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and the issues related to a lack of support for health care providers as a result of stigma and legal restrictions. This diverse group of stakeholders and other supporters will hopefully increase the legitimacy of national voices and result in an increase in visibility and a change in the existing law.

Here are some of the key points that were discussed and debated in the meeting.

  • We need to target vulnerable youth and Sri Lanka is identified as a priority country on abortions by FIGO.
  • This is a good time to take the abortion advocacy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights efforts forward.
  • Issues related to unsafe abortion can be tackled providing accurate information and services to a certain extent.
  • Immediate need for Comprehensive sexuality and relationship education in schools was echoed by many.
  • Workshops with women’s ministry, Media workshops for SRHR and HIV havas been happening and there are several new short films and videos on issues related to teenage pregnancy.
  • The policy paper on unsafe abortion needs to be pushed
  • Gender based violence and challenges addressing violence need to be brought attention through media
  • There has been a research conducted with doctors on abortion law ( targeting 220 doctors) on their perceptions and attitudes
  • We need to find innovative mechanisms to deliver SRHR knowledge
  • Lack of availability of information, less access to research and data make these issues more complicated and hard to write or talk about
  • The young journalists were particularly keen to contact several officials and ministries for interviews, access data, have press conferences.
  • It was also highlighted that journalists and media being more sensitized, ethical and responsible when writing articles related to SRHR and gender equality related issues.
  • It was commonly suggested to identify less progressive arguments and discriminatory myths and misconceptions related to SRHR and unsafe abortion related issues and address them with data on social media.
  • Challenges faced by young advocates and activists in the grassroot level when working on SRHR of young people was discussed in detail where several officials offered their support to deal with some issues specially related to access and information.
  • Importance of having a glossary and reviewing the education curriculum of young people living with disabilities to add more rights based gender responsive sexuality education into their education.
  • Importance of having rights based gender responsive education in medical and nursing schools was highlighted.
  • It was also discussed how we can localize Sustainable Development Goals specially related to reproductive health and gender equality after the goals are adopted.




We, as the young people of Sri Lanka, recognize the important achievements in the field of  education and employment opportunities for women since the Beijing Platform for Action  1995. In terms of gender equality, we have also ratified the Convention to Eliminate all forms of  Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as of October 1981. Sri Lanka also adopted a  comprehensive Women’s Charter in 1993 framed on the principles of equality and nondiscrimination enshrined in CEDAW. Despite all these achievements however, there is a  significant prevalence of discrimination against girls and women. Young women lack the  opportunity to make decisions concerning their own bodies –especially in relation to abortion,  marital law is not discussed, and there is a lack of young, capable women in decision making  positions of power and authority. Young women and girls are victims of discrimination based  purely on their gender. Female unemployment rate is twice that of the male unemployment rate. Approximately 6.3% teen pregnancies are reported every year in Sri Lanka.1 More than 700 unsafe abortions happen every day in Sri Lanka.2 Sri Lanka has the highest rate of sexual  harassment in South Asia where recent research found that 70%of women aged 15-45 had experienced sexual harassment on public transport.

Additionally, in spite of legal measures in place to protect women’s rights, the existence of  social, cultural and religious barriers are prevalent throughout the country, preventing women  and girls from achieving their full potential and making them victims of circumstance depending  on their socio-cultural background. It may seem paradoxical; we have a National Youth Policy in  place, yet we also have laws criminalizing homosexuality, and a lack of Comprehensive Sexuality  Education (CSE) and safe abortion services, except when the mother’s life is in danger. This, and  society’s constricted outlook on the definition of what young women should be like, leads to  very realistic fears concerning the deteriorating status of women in modern-day Sri Lanka.  There is a lack of equality for women in social and political contexts, including where their  health rights are concerned. We believe that implementation of the existing adolescent health  strategy and national youth policy, and approving the Health of Young Persons’ Policy would
resolve most of the existing issues.

Following our advocacy training and youth review of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), 26  participants from government and civil society organisations decided to focus on four key areas  of the BPFA to be given precedence in the Post 2015 development agenda that Sri Lanka will  undertake. Our major areas of concern are Women and Health, Violence against Women,  Women in Power and Decision Making, and The Girl Child.
1. Women and Health
Introduce and provide Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) at school level to all students
regardless of gender, religion and or other factors. Implement the Lessons Learnt and
Recommendation Commission’s (LLRC) recommendations regarding women’s health and rights.
Decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormalities and provide safe,
affordable, accessible abortion, including effective post-abortion care. Ensure and strengthen
the provision of equal, accessible, affordable, comprehensive, confidential, non-judgmental,
and non-discriminatory youth friendly healthcare and information services irrespective of
gender or sexual identity, which includes sexual and reproductive health services (including HIV
and STI services). Provide non-discriminatory service to women who are at an increased risk or
who are vulnerable to HIV and STIs by training health service providers to acquire necessary
skills and attitudes when communicating and/ or providing treatment to vulnerable and high
risk women.
2. Violence against Women
Recognize marital rape as a crime, and emphasize the legal protection which would be given to
women in such instances. Strengthen and ensure the efficiency of the women’s help desk in law
enforcing institutions. Ensure that police officers and state officials receive comprehensive
gender sensitivity training. Implement existing mechanisms to protect vulnerable women from
violence which results from post-conflict situations and religious fundamentalism. Eliminate
sexual harassment in the work place and take immediate disciplinary or legal action against
sexual harassers. Recognize cyber violence and Intimate partner violence as forms of Violence
against Women (VAW). Eliminate Discriminatory practices and legal provisions against women
in land and property ownership.

3. Women in Power and Decision Making

Establish an independent women’s commission that would address and ensure women’s rights
with a fair representation of youth. Ensure participation of women in local government as well
as in provincial and national government, by allocating specific quotas for women, including
reserved seats. Provide cabinet ministry portfolios and allocate a specific quota for female
representation in Parliament, including a 25% inclusion in the National List; urge state run
youth bodies such as the Youth Parliament, to have a supportive environment within their
organization to promote participation of women, while also and empowering them by enabling
them to access positions of leadership. Encourage political parties to pledge for a fair
representation of women within their party, including in the executive positions with an
equitable provision for youth representation. Existing national policies and programmes should
be implemented in a manner which is gender responsive and gender friendly. Establish a
women’s desk at District Secretary level. Provide leadership training to assist marginalized and
women living with disabilities, and to ensure that their participation in decision making
platforms will be effective and meaningful.

4. The Girl Child
Eliminate stigma and discrimination faced by young women and girls in all spheres. Create
supportive mechanisms to provide access to education and health services to marginalized girls,
the group of which include but are not limited to people with different physical and mental
abilities, sexual orientation and gender identities, and indigenous young women. Provide and
strengthen uniform community based networking, child-monitoring and a safe support system
for the protection of victims of violence. Ensure that the school and pre-school teacher and
parent training curricula are gender responsive and includes CSE, while additionally instructing
institutions to ensure its programmes and policies are also gender responsive.

1 The Family Health Bureau. (2013). 2 UNFPA Sri Lanka. ICPD@15 Sri Lanka Review. (2009). 3 Sri Lanka Legal Aid Commission. (2011).

The Beijing POA imagines a world where women and girls can exercise their freedom and choices, realize all their rights & participate in decision making meaningfully. IS THIS A REALITY?

Beijing+20 youth review and advocacy training was an eye opener for me in terms of understanding the Beijing Deceleration and Platform for Action and the 12 critical areas of concern. It made not only me but the rest of the participants also who are activists in different related areas understand the content of the document and the remaining recommendations that need to be implemented in Sri Lanka to empower women. The BPFA imagines a world where women and girls can exercise their freedom and choices, realize all their rights and participate in decision making meaningfully. We all know that Beijing process unleashed a great deal of political will, support and visibility that the governments, civil societies and the public and then the governments have translated the platform actions and recommendations where they promised to act accordingly addressing the issues in concern in their individual countries and to bring a solid change.


Looking at the Sri Lankan context I accept that there had been a great improvement in women’s life when looking at certain areas but still it is questionable and debatable with the rise of certain issues and reported incidents whether Sri Lanka is addressing the issues related to women’s life in the correct manner? Is women’s empowerment a reality? Can the recommendations and actions that have been implemented in the sphere of empowering women make them take meaningful decisions? Can they make their own choices without influence? Do they know what a rights based approach is?is?  10994063_10204767335481638_7578097526018582950_n

Looking at women’s and young girls sexual and reproductive health rights it is largely seen and observed that adolescents girls in Sri Lanka don’t have access to necessary healthcare information and services. Trend towards early sexual experiences are combined with the lack of information and services and this increases the risk of unwanted and early pregnancies, HIV and other STIs and also lead to unsafe abortions. These issues that rise because of lack of access for quality SRHR information and services will push them backwards in achieving a range of educational, economical and social statutes and also this won’t give them the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical or mental wellbeing. Another area of concern under health is the attempts that needed to be taken to eliminate unsafe abortions and to deal with the health impacts of unsafe abortions. Under restricted abortion laws still there are more than 750 reported cases of unsafe abortions that take place in Sri Lanka every day. I personally think that this much of cases are reported because there is a loop hole somewhere that needs to be urgently addressed. The lack of knowledge on contraceptives ends up making women vulnerable and then they finally have to get an unsafe, illegal abortion done.

Concerning only this aspect it suggests that Sri Lanka still has a long way to go! More recommendations need to be added and implemented in the grass root level! Certain policies and laws need to be changed! Real actions and policies needed to be implemented to address women’s health! To empower them! To make them realise their rights! To make them take decisions and make choices related to their own bodies!

Lakmini Prabani Perera- Sri Lanka

Body Talk: Engaging People During #IWD2018.

On International Women’s Day (IWD) earlier this month, Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka joined The MJF Charitable Foundation’s IWD celebrations, and had a day of education, fun, and games with the children there.

The MJF Charitable Foundation was established in January 2003 with the objective of utilizing revenue from sales of Dilmah Tea, in implementing charitable projects designed to uplift communities and individuals who are considered marginalized or underprivileged. The IWD celebration was held the their MJF Centre in Moratuwa, with their project beneficiaries. This half-day event was open and free for the public, and had various activities including a movie screening, therapy sessions, art sessions, a medical clinic, legal corner and a counseling corner.

We conducted a session on body talk for kids from ages 10 – 16 years and an interactive quiz on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.  Overall, there were approximately 150 people at the event, with most of the participants being young people between the ages of 10-16, and their mothers.


Parents were not around for the body talk session and it was intentional to make sure kids can engage freely and raise questions. Sexual harassment and harassment in general in public transport was something funny for many boys present and they haven’t thought about the aspect of respect in it. Most of them openly talked about asking for phone numbers from girls in buses.

We observed that many of the girls were silent and shy to speak up, despite listening closely to everything being discussed. Whenever they DID speak, they didn’t maintain eye-contact at any given point. Some of the boys tended to dominate the conversation, and many of them were aware of the physical changes they were going through as teenagers. Some even had a brief knowledge of their hormonal changes.We had an interesting time talking to kids about good touch and bad touch, respect, consent and their experiences with adults. While many of them knew that a number existed to report abuse, they didn’t remember the National Child Protection Authority’s hotline, 1929.

To get people engaged in other activities we organized, we asked them to come forward and try hit hanging balloons with darts to be eligible for the quiz. While the kids took over the place by storm simply for the action and win some goodies, it was interesting to see how some of their parents participated much later on, after listening to how their children responded to our questions of rights, protection, and health.

Trailblazers: Sri Lanka’s Young Planetary Scientist

How many planetary scientists would you have heard of? Especially if they’re female AND Sri Lankan to boot? Not many, we bet!

The World Bank Country Director recently pointed out that despite many women in pursuing higher studies in Sri Lanka, very few of them are in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Likewise, the 2010 National Science Foundation (NSF) handbook highlights that from over 2000 full-time researchers in Sri Lanka, only 31% of them were female.

It is in such an environment that we have our first female planetary scientist who’s based in Sri Lanka: Hiruni Senerath Dassanayake!

An alumnus of the Buffalo State University of New York, Hiruni spent 08 weeks in the USA mapping a section of Mars. She also presented her research at the 2015 Geological Society of America’s (GSA) annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hiruni is currently engaged in her Global Mars Project, and with research focusing on studying water-related geology on Mars.

Being a planetary scientist in Sri Lanka isn’t easy. “Not only in terms of resources, but also in terms of equity and exposure. It’s very challenging….I’m the only planetary scientist based in Sri Lanka with my specific research and education/outreach interest,” she said.

We’re all about celebrating exemplary women and under-represented people. If you have any stories you’d like to share, please feel free to reach out to us through our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter (@YANSrilanka), or comment here.

Bad Blood: Empowering Women Despite Menstrual Taboos In Sri Lanka

During her first period, a girl is showered with attention in Sri Lanka. She will be kept home from school, away from the eyes of boys and men, and be made to follow multiple rituals during the whole week of her first blood.

Despite all this fanfare,  periods are a taboo topic here, much like sex. The importance of hygiene isn’t spoken about, and women with no access to information and proper healthcare often resort to reusing old cloth and wads of cotton. Sanitary napkins are expensive, especially for lower-income families, and tampons are unheard of.

Girls are often embarrassed to ask for sanitary napkins or fresh cloth when they’re out at work and school, and they are taught to maintain silence and secrecy when a change of cloth is needed. Sometimes, they use the same, thick cloth throughout the day, unaware of the complications and infections the old blood can cause as a result.

On the 14th of February this year, the SAARC Chamber Women Entrepreneurs Council (SCWEC) launched a new initiative—to revolutionize menstrual sanitation in Sri Lanka.

Following the footsteps of India’s beloved ‘Padman’, Dr. Arunachalam Murugananantham, the SCWEC is rolling out a project to help Sri Lankan women produce their own sanitary napkins. The Council has procured a cost effective sanitary napkin manufacturing machine from Dr. Murugananantham, and will be training clusters of women entrepreneurs or Self Help Groups (SHGs) to produce and market their own sanitary napkins

SCWEC Chairperson Rifa Mustapha stated that the cost of these napkins will be about 50-60% less than those sold at supermarkets.

“The raw material used to produce this is a fibre developed from tree bark. This is currently imported from India, but we need to look at a long term solution here. The women making these can brand the products and market it as they wish,” she added.

In addition to being cost effective, the napkins will also be biodegradable.

SCWEC revealed that while there are per 4.2 million menstruating women in Sri Lanka, studies have indicated that only 30% of these women use sanitary napkins. The remainder often resort to unsanitary and unconventional means—from repeatedly using the same unsterilized cloth, to gunny bags—to stem their period blood.

They also pointed out that many women, especially those who live in low-income and underprivileged communities, are unable to afford sanitary napkins which are commercially available. Ergo, the focus on this project is for non-wearers, SCWEC Vice President Jazaya Hassendeen added.

Training on how to operate the machines will be conducted at the Gangaramaya Vocational Training Centre from early next month. Based on the success of this pilot project, more machines will be procured for additional projects for more women in rural areas.

This is 2018. Shame and stigma for something as absolutely natural as monthly cycles should be outdated by now. It is of utmost importance that girls know more about their body and how to care for it properly: especially where hygiene and reproductive health is concerned.

A woman cannot be empowered if she is made to feel shame about a normal, monthly cycle—and we feel that making sanitary napkins and providing it at an affordable price for women of lower income levels is a step in the right direction.

Among Many Stories, Mine Is No Different Than Yours


Bindu was a girl looking for love and the meaning of her life. Her parents were from an Indian Brahamin Hindu family. They were separated when she was small and she had to come to live in the hill country of Sri Lanka with her grandparents as a result. Her mother was living in India and her father in United States. She never had much of a connection with them and it was her grandparents that she had for everything. As soon as she was 18 and left school, her grandparents wanted to marry her off. Yet her dreams were bigger than that. She wanted to work, she wanted to study, she wanted to live her life before being a wife.

“I didn’t want to marry this soon, I was too young and I wanted to work and do my higher studies as well. So I didn’t see any other option than leaving my grandparents and moving to Colombo looking for the life I wanted,” Bindu said.

So she took her own decision to come to Colombo and look for a job. As she moved to the capital city she  almost lost the connection with her grandparents as well. She was alone and was making a fresh start, figuring out her life and dreaming big. She was lucky enough to find a job that paid well enough for her to afford for her studies and for her living. She was boarded with a friend and was starting to be happy and comfortable about her new life.

“At work I had to attend an event and that is when I first met Rudra. Rudra was a friend of my friend so through that I met him several times later. I felt his interest towards me. Yet I took my time without giving him a proper word and committing immediately. But finally, even I was starting to like him and eventually fell in love,” she told us.

This was when she was madly in love with him. This was just another date for Bindu with her boyfriend. They went to the beach and were teasing and pushing each other to the sea where she got wet. So she wasn’t in a position to travel in a public transportation and told him she needed to change. They went to a shop to get her some clothes and then they were figuring out a place to change. He took her to a place where there are rooms and without even showing their identity for their age he got access to a room. So she felt he was not new here or for the staff. When she went inside she asked him to wait out as she would quickly finish dressing and meet him outside, but he overrode her wishes.

“I was raped when I was 21 years old. I told him NO but it all happened in few minutes”.

After this incident she realized that he had planned almost everything from the beginning, including pushing her into the water. She felt distanced from him and the connection she had with him was fading.


“I didn’t get my periods for few months and that is when I realized I was pregnant. It was almost 04 months”.

She was helpless without not knowing what to do. He contacted Rudra and he said he will get her pills to go through a medical abortion. She somehow found money and gave him to get the pills but he disappeared with the money. She was raped. She didn’t want to go through an unwanted pregnancy. She wasn’t ready.  She was in the city alone and was not even in a condition to support herself. She had to sell her gold chain and find money to get pills again. Yet going through the medical abortion didn’t work out for her first and she was alone, depressed and devastated not knowing what to do. Through numerous contacts, she finally found a place to terminate her pregnancy. This proved to be extremely costly. She had to ask for support from her friends and even strangers because it was too expensive and she couldn’t afford it. She was scared and feeling insecure about her own life and safety yet she hadn’t had any other option left except to risk her own life.

“After that, I had to go through many complications, especially physical and health complications. I hated him, hated what he did to me. It was all unexpected and unwanted. I was going through such a lot of trauma and there are times I wanted to end my life. I saw him leading a normal and comfortable life in midst of all this. Going to Kovil when he isn’t pure and when he had to feel the guilt,” she said.

She didn’t want to share her story with anyone because people would judge her for so many things. Many would blame her for putting herself for this condition. She would be blamed for leaving her grandparents, she would be blamed for not agreeing for the marriage, she would be blamed for living alone in Colombo, she would be blamed for having a boyfriend, she would be blamed for going out with him, she would be blamed for what she wore, she would be blamed for being raped and she would be blamed for undergoing an abortion. Her family, society, culture,  religion, legal setting, patriarchy, and oppression has made her feel she is the perpetrator. She is now in a condition where she doesn’t have faith in life, love, and people.

“It would take years for me to trust man, it would take years for me to forget what happened. Yet I don’t know whether I could really forget what happened to me”

She was raped and wasn’t in a condition to report about it. She was going through an unwanted pregnancy and was a victim of the law.

This is just another story of a girl who is living in Sri Lanka where abortion is restricted and can only be accessed when the mother’s life is in danger. Yet in Sri Lanka, Medical Research reports reveal that there are approximately 700 – 1000 illegal abortions occur daily. She is just one person in that lot. There are almost 1000 women and girls who risk their lives daily to go through an unsafe and illegal abortion due to various reasons. Isn’t this the time to move forward and find progress when it is identified that strict criminalization of abortion or to terminate an unwanted pregnancy is harmful for the mental and physical well-being of a woman? Legalization of abortion under special circumstances would be at least a way forward. A women’s right towards reproductive health should be her own decision to be made by herself. Until the day Sri Lankan women have access to reproductive health they wouldn’t experience the real means of freedom.

*Names mentioned in the story have been changed to protect privacy.
Written by Lakmini Prabani Perera, as narrated to her by Bindu.


Freedom? Restricted and Violated

To what extent are we independent as a nation or as people?

I believe maybe as a citizen of Sri Lanka you may have asked this question more than once from yourself. Sri Lanka annually celebrates its independence day on the 04th of February. This celebration is to remember the struggles of history and to celebrate the independence over the colonial rule from the Portuguese, Dutch and specially over the British in the year 1948. Today we celebrate the independence day rising the national flag, with speeches of people in power and with a parade of military.


Sri Lankan political system and laws have been structured and formed by the British colonial in 1801. In 1931 the constitution gave some sort of authority to the native    citizens who were elected. It was on the 16th of May, 1972 when the country was officially claimed as an independent republic. The constitution which is currently in force gave more authority and equality for native ethnic groups. During the past years the constitution has been amended in several times and yet carry the form and memories, experience of colonialism and oppression.


Whenever Sri Lanka tried to progress there have been barriers where we are still fighting to discover  our own identity, respect, equality and justice for all citizens. The national unity, violation of rights of minorities, violation of women’s rights, religious fundamentalism, centralization of political power and judicial dependence and politicization are some of the issues and challenges that we are facing as a nation trying to fight off. It is evident that we cannot say we are still experiencing the true means of freedom looking at the issues in this country such as cases of rapes and GBV, murders,    disappearances, violence against minority ethnic groups and marginalized groups, laws related to sexuality, abortion etc. Looking at a normal day in Sri Lanka just only from reported cases we see that many civilians in our country is suffering, been vulnerable and is not free from violence. That means we, every individual in this land isn’t living a life which is free. Specially women and girls have become more vulnerable in this situation. Homes, schools, workplaces, police stations, government offices, schools, courts, buses, trains, streets are open for discrimination, exploitation and violence against women and girls. As the Women’s U.N. Report Network, 2015 mentions 30% – 40% of women in Sri Lanka suffer from some type of violence while 60% of women across Sri Lanka are victims of domestic violence.


According to UNFPA female participation for foreign employment was 51.73%, total of 247,119 in 2009. The violence and discrimination they have to go through has increased with the numbers and women and girls who are working in Sri Lanka itself has to undergo violence that are occurring at their workplaces.


Recently a woman candidate in Wellawaye area in Monaragala District was attacked while she was involved in the election campaign. This shows that the country doesn’t have a free environment for individuals to engage in politics freely. According to UNFPA women’s representation in parliament was 5.8% in 2010, 4.1% in provincial councils in 2009 and 1.8% in local councils in 2006. Could this be any better when there is no assurance for free and just political and civil rights in the country.


Women were entitled to purchase liquor under Sri Lankan law from 08th of Jan, 2018 where President rejected this decision and cabinet banned women from purchasing liquor from 16th of Jan, 2018. Are women in Sri Lanka enjoying equal rights or the nondiscrimination on the grounds of sex as guaranteed by the constitution since 1978.


Even the amendments on abortion laws are on hold to please men in this country. According to the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka 700 plus abortions take place daily in Sri Lanka. Which takes place in unsafe and unhygienic conditions. This risk women’s lives by health complications, septic abortions, infertility, economic exploitation and even by death. As the Family Health Bureau emphasis maternal deaths due to septic abortion are the third highest case (13%) for maternal deaths. Women are not in a position to decide when to be pregnant and to decide and terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Whether the women get access for medical information and services to   terminate an unwanted pregnancy is far away in a country where purchasing liquor by a woman was banned by the President simply assuming that woman are incapable of making decisions for themselves.


Women are the most vulnerable in every genre of the society, every institute and where they are treated without respect and dignity. The years of violence and oppression has not let them achieve their fullest potentials and has not let them experience the real essence of freedom. Here is a promised land where women have to risk almost everything to decide for themselves.


THIS IS INDEED A VERY CRUCIAL AND SERIOUS time for us to go forward, defend for rights and fight courageously towards real freedom for all Sri Lankans. I will be hopeful and dream for that day with all of you where we all can breath freely and equally in this nation.


Written by Lakmini Prabani Perera