SRI LANKA: A people’s commission for women formed in Sri Lanka

The Asian Human Rights Commission welcomes the inauguration of the people’s commission for women in Sri Lanka. This new people’s commission was launched on the 8th of March. About 150 persons participated at the opening ceremony held at the Mahaweli auditorium.

Padma Pushpakanthi explained the aims of this people’s commission. The title ‘people’s commission’ was selected to distinguish from many types of commissions that are being launched from time to time by the Government but where the scope of these State commissions is very limited. Further, these State commissions are also subjected to various forms of controls and the possibility of airing the genuine grievances of the women themselves requires a much freer environment. It is for the purpose of creating this free environment for the participation of women with the view to represent 52% of the Sri Lankan population which constitutes women, that this initiative has been taken. Prior to this launching, many discussions have been held and many organizations and individuals have expressed their support for this venture. That this women’s and people’s commission has been formed at a time when national institutes for the protection of human rights including the national Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has been relegated to an insignificant position due to political control, is a significant move for women themselves in order to fill the vacuum by way of their direct participation in the protection of their rights.

In recent years, while the grievances expressed by women in almost every area has been met with the denial of protection, the State responses for the promotion of human rights have been confined mostly to public declarations. Meanwhile, serious grievances expressed by women do not even get properly investigated. There are several instances of rape or even gang rape and other forms of abuses reported by women but justice has not been meted out in any of these cases.

The central problem is that the very notion of justice is in a serious crisis in Sri Lanka. That applies not only for women but for everybody. Institutions that are supposed to be protecting the people from all forms of violence and are supposed to provide protection are not functioning. Serious defects of the criminal investigation system itself is being discussed all the time in the country, in the media as well as among the people. Many administrative and other problems also mar the justice system itself where through prolonged delays and other forms of harassment that result, seeking justice becomes difficult for everyone and of course the worse off victims are women.

The Asian Human Rights Commission welcomes this idea of a people’s commission because without the women themselves taking the initiative to protect themselves, it is not possible to expect that there will be great effort by the State in order to protect or promote the rights of women. We welcome this move and we wish the new commission success.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-006-2022
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Administration of justice, Civil and Political Rights, Violence against women, Women's rights,