BEIJING+20 YOUTH STATEMENT ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY SRI LANKA 2015
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
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).