Preparedby Dr. Mala tudawe for ZONTA CLUB II of COLOMBOThe term “gender-based violence” refers to violence that targets individuals or groups on the basis of their gender. The United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines it as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately”, in its General Recommendation 19.
The Declaration states in its introduction that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which has led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the main social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.
This includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, the threat of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty. This does not mean that all acts against a woman are gender-based violence, or that all victims of gender-based violence are female. The surrounding circumstances where men are victim of sexual violence could be a man being harassed, beaten or killed because they do not conform to views of masculinity, which are accepted by society.
Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering; sexual abuse of female children in the household; dowry-related violence; marital rape; female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;
Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.
Whether it is a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor, you can reach out. Given the extent of family violence in Sri Lanka, there is a good chance that someone you know - either personally or professionally - is experiencing abuse, even if you don’t suspect it. Learning to recognize the warning signs and risk factors is the first step. And when you do see these signs, you can help. Everyone has a role to play in ending violence in our communities.
Although anyone can be a victim, including men, research shows that some people are at much greater risk of experiencing abuse and feeling trapped when it happens. This includes:
In most cases of family violence there are many warning signs that abuse is happening. Although there is no single indicator, you can learn about the many “red flags” that indicate someone is acting abusively and that someone is experiencing abuse. To reach out to someone experiencing abuse, whether it is physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual or financial abuse, you must first learn the indicators of abusive behaviour and recognize the warning signs that someone is being abused.
In Sri Lanka there are several organizations who volunteer to help these people. They even provide legal help. Zonta Club II of Colombo is involved in such an organization called “Mithuru Piyasa” or friendly abode, which is monitored by the Sri Lanka family Health bureau (FHB). Highly professional counselors trained by the FHB are working in these so-called “clinics” which are in operation in 17 places in the island. The difference from other GBV organizations is that these are located in major hospitals, so that the victim can walk in as if coming for treatment for health issues. This helps to break the fear and doubt in the victims as they immediately feel safe in an environment like a hospital.
Our club is involved in two such initiatives which are located at the Kethumathie Maternity Hospital at Panadura and the Kalutara General Hospital. We have done many awareness programmes together with the FHB for the community and other stakeholders who are involved in preventing GBV like Gramaseveka divisions, local police and village councils. Quarterly review meetings are held with the participation of hospital staff, field workers and police to make them aware of the extent of the problem in their locality.
Anyone can contact these counselors via the following hotline from 8am to 4 pm.