Sri Lanka actively participated at the Sixtieth Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) held at the United Nations in New York, with high-level engagement from the government as well as by civil society. This included three side events co-hosted by the Sri Lanka Permanent Mission to New York.
The Sri Lanka delegation comprised the Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Ms. Chandrani Bandara Jayasingha, and Chairperson, National Committee on Women, Mrs. Swarna Sumansekera.
Minister of Public Enterprise Development, Sri Lanka, and Chair, Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation, Mr. Kabir Hashim also participated in the proceedings as a special invitee of UN Women.
Ms. Chandrani Bandara held bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the CSW, with the Italian Vice Foreign Minister, Mr. Benedetto Della Vedova, the United States Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues, Ms. Catherine Russell, and with senior officials from UN Women, on matters of mutual interest,including the empowerment of women both politically and economically.
A bilateral meeting between U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.S Department of State, Catherine Russell and Hon.Chandrani Bandara took place on 17th March 2016 at the Sri Lanka Mission premises in New York, on the side lines of the sixtieth Commission for the Status of Women, where matters of mutual interest, including the empowerment of women and girls were discussed. The delegation from the US, included Chief of Staff of the office of Global Women’s Issues, Regina Waugh, and Jonathan Dach from the Office of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State. Permanent Representive to the UN Dr. Rohan Perera, Mrs. Swarna Sumanasekera, Chairperson, National Committee on Women, and Visakha Dharmadasa, Chair, Association of War Affected Women also attended.
Despite many side events hosted by other member states, Sri Lanka’s panel discussions on the topics of ‘Women in Post Conflict Reconciliation’, ‘Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls’, and ‘Evaluating SDG’s with an Equity Focused and Gender Responsive Lens’,generated much interest, with each event drawing over one hundred participants from the diplomatic community, Sri Lankan expatriate community, media and civil society.
Sri Lanka was also invited as a special guest, and the only South Asian participant, at a seminar organized by The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the Permanent Mission ofSenegal, where Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera made opening remarks, underlining the importance of water and sanitation for women and girls, and Sri Lanka’s impressive record in this regard in South Asia.
Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Hon. Chandrani Bandara Jayasinghe, delivered Sri Lanka’s National Statement to the United Nations General Assembly on 15 March. In the course of this statement she said that this session of CSW was doubly important, because it is the first session, after the adoption of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015, and will set the stage and create the momentum for the world to move forward on Women’s Empowerment and the Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence against Women and Girls.
Following the recommendations made by the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, one of the key target groups in the government’s empowerment programs were female-headed households including war widows, who constitute over 23% of the total female population in Sri Lanka, the Minister added.
Permanent Representative for Sri Lanka at the United Nations, Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera, delivering his closing remarks, following the panel discussion titled “No One Left Behind: Evaluating SDGs with an Equity-Focused and Gender-Responsive Lens” co sponsored by Sri Lanka together with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland, UN Women and several other collaborators, and held at the Frod Foundation in New York on the sidelines of 60CSW on 15th March 2016.
Ms.Chandrani Bandara also participated at a packed Round Table conference at the UN headquarters on 14 March, titled “Enhancing National Institutional Arrangements for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.” Sri Lanka’s intervention was met with applause, as the Minister stated that Sri Lanka is committed to achieving gender equality through law reforms, introducing new policies and gender responsive government action plans.
The Sri Lanka Permanent Mission, together with UN Women, the Permanent Mission of Switzerland and several other collaborators, co-hosted a side event held at the Ford Foundation in New York,on 15 March,titled “No One Left Behind: Evaluating SDGs with an Equity-Focused and Gender-Responsive Lens.”
The panelists included Minister of Public Enterprise Development, Sri Lanka, and Chair, Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation, Mr. Kabir Hashim, Ms. Susan Musyoka, Member of Parliament in Kenya, and Ananda Pokharel, Minister of Tourism, Nepal and South Asia Representative to the Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluating Steering Committee.
Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera,in his closing remarks at this event, noted that the effects of unsustainable patterns of development intensify gender inequality, as women and girls are often affected by economic, social and environmental shocks, disproportionately. Therefore, the systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is critical, Ambassador Perera said.
The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka also co-hosted a panel discussion on “Women in Post Conflict Reconciliation, The Road to Reconciliation: Justice, Hope and Dignity in Sri Lanka,” together with the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, Sri Lanka, the Association for War Affected Women, and the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), at the Mission premises.
The event drew participants from the diplomatic sector, the Sri Lankan expatriate community and civil society advocates in New York. The panelists included Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Chandrani Bandara, Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, South Africa, Ms Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa Nqakula, Chair, Association of War Affected Women Ms. Visakha Dharmadasa, and Co-Founder & Executive Director ICAN, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini.
Mr. Kabir Hashim, Minister of Public Enterprise Development and Chair, Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation, in Sri Lanka, makies a point during the panel discussion co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, the Permanent Mission of Switzerland and UN women among others, at the Ford Foundation New York, on 15th March 2016. The side event titled “No One Left Behind: Evaluating SDGs with an Equity-Focused and Gender-Responsive Lens” included as panelists Ms. Susan Musyoka, Member of Parliament in Kenya, and Ananda Pokharel, Minister of Tourism in Nepal and South Asia representative to the Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluating Steering Committee.
The topic generated great interest and a lively Q and A session followed the panel discussion. Minister Chandrani Bandara in her initial remarks noted that since the change of administration in January 2015, the government of Sri Lanka has been committed to implementing its international obligations, not only because of its responsibility towards international assurances, but because it has a duty towards its own people to ensure their future. She said that this commitment,is also in keeping with the mandate the government received from the people of Sri Lanka,both in January 2015 at the Presidential election, and then again in August 2015, to restore good governance and the rule of law.
Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera made the welcome address.
The Sri Lanka Mission in New York also co-hosted an event titled “Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls: A Major Obstacle to Women’s Empowerment.” Together with the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY on 18th March also held at the Sri Lankan Mission premises. The panel included Minister Chandrani Bandara, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, Sri Lanka, Ms. Sicily Kariuki, Minister of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, Ms. Nana Oye Lithur, Cabinet Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of the Republic of Ghana, Ms. Carolyn. B Maloney, U.S. Congressional Representative of New York District 12, and Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.
Italian Vice Foreign Minister Benedetto Della Vedova and Sri Lanka’s Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Hon. Chandrani Bandara, held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the CSW on 18th March 2016 at the Sri Lanka Mission in New York, to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the empowerment of women politically and economically. Also present at the meeting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN, Dr. Rohan Perera, Italy’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sebastiano Cardi, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Vice Foreign Minister, Lorenzo Galanti, and First Secretary of the Italian Permanent Mission Ilario Schettino.
Minister Hon. Chandrani Bandara in her opening address noted that the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 2005 was one of the most significant measures taken to address intra-family violence. She said that Sri Lanka has undertaken several awareness programmes within communities, and Women and Children’s Desks had been set up at police stations,which were now operational in many parts of the country. However, the Minister emphasized that legal measures were not sufficient to address the problem, and that changes are required at multiple levels of society in order to develop a holistic approach to rectify the situation.
Permanent Representative for Sri Lanka to the United Nations Dr. Rohan Perera (Far Right) delivers his opening remarks at the Seminar on Achieving Gender Equality through WASH, co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Senegal, and organized by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) held at the UN Headquarters on 18th March 2016. The panel included Ms. Anne Lammila, (third from right) Ambassador for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland.
The panelists discussed the topic further by considering country contexts as in the case of the Republic of Kenya and the Republic of Ghana. The importance of women raising their voices, and having a safe outlet to express their experiences was highlighted; as well the necessity to make it understood that this is an effort that required men and women to work together. The Ministers present exchanged ideas on the successes and challenges faced in their own countries, and the best practices established by their governments in terms of legislation, and changes in attitude and perceptions, where media too must play an important role. A robust and vigorous Q and A session followed the panel discussion. Ambassador Dr. Perera delivered the Vote of Thanks.
"Women in Post War Reconciliation”
The Road to Reconciliation: Justice, Hope and Dignity in Sri Lanka
Minister of Women and Child Affairs
Hon. Chandrani Bandara
Ladies and Gentlemen
We know that women and girls remain one of the most vulnerable groups in times of armed conflict. Security Council Resolution 2242 (2015) reaffirmed that the empowerment of women and girls’ and gender equality are critical to conflict prevention.
Fifteen years ago Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) was a landmark resolution, rightly focusing on the differential impact of armed conflict on women and girls, and their exclusion from conflict prevention, peacebuilding and peacekeeping. It is now a fact that there is a link between gender inequality and international peace and security. Likewise Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008) Seven Years ago, focused on violence against women and girls in armed conflict.
We are well aware that women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including in some cases as “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.
It is a matter of particular pride to us that the Global Study on the Implementation of Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security was led by prominent a Sri Lankan expert Radhika Coomaraswamy. We will closely study its recommendations, to further the shared goal that women remain at the center of peace processes.
With the changing global context of peace and security, there must be more focus on women peace and security as a cross cutting factor.
As Ambassador Perera so eloquently put it, since the change of administration in January 2015, my government is indeed committed to implementing our international obligations, but we are committed to do so not only because of our responsibility towards international assurances, but because we have a duty towards our own people to ensure their future. It is also in keeping with the mandate we received from our people both in January 2015 at the Presidential election and then again in August 2015 to restore good governance and the rule of law.
At the outset then, we have to realize that true reconciliation cannot happen effectively and inclusively unless certain factors are addressed, and that in addressing those factors, the female perspective has to be central.
First, consensus is important. In post-conflict Sri Lanka, the formation of a National Unity Government, was not only essential in obtaining the bipartisan consensus necessary to face the challenges of peace building and Constitution reform necessary to eliminate the root causes that led to the conflict, but also in ensuring that the universal values of equality, justice, and freedom are upheld, by fostering reconciliation between communities and politically empowering all communities to have a voice in their own political and economic destiny.
Second, it is vital to actively and positively engage with the global community and the United Nations in an open and transparent way. For example the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded a very successful visit to Sri Lanka earlier this year, and engaged with the highest political leadership of the country.
Third it is important for the international community to recognize the efforts of a country in trying to address its past mistakes. It is equally important for a nation to heal, that there must also be an admission, and an acknowledgment that mistakes were made.
Fourth and really most important in this list is that in order to get at the root causes of violent conflict, we need to consult the grass roots including with the full participation of women and girls. This is why we have begun victim centered national consultations on transitional justice.
Sri Lanka’s processes for national unity and reconciliation, will be developed under the overall guidance of the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) headed by former president Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga (daughter of the first woman Prime Minister in the world) who will advise on consultative steps to be followed, whilst also commencing innovative conflict building interventions that would later be institutionalized and scaled up.
Even though Sri Lanka has been since 2009 in a post conflict situation, a post conflict sensitive Constitution has not materialized. War –affected communities needed the root causes of the conflict to be focused upon. For many women, the mere provision of a constitutional prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, even with affirmative action, may not be adequate.
At present our new government that came into power last January has initiated a process of Constitution-making. This is an ideal opportunity for women to claim equal access and full participation in power structures and get involved in the resolution of the conflict and work towards the maintenance of peace and security.
Just before my departure to New York I, along with the women’s groups, presented a set of proposals to the Public Representation Committee securing the rights of women affected by the war.
Sri Lanka acknowledges the importance of women in peacekeeping and peace building. It is committed to purposefully including women at all levels of these processes, including at the decision making and policy setting stages. We are equally committed to including our highly trained and disciplined women forces in peacekeeping efforts.
Sri Lanka has taken steps to ensure that our women are not only front and center in peace building but that their rights are safeguarded. To this end we not only endorsed the 2013 Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, but on 12 January 2016, we re-iterated this Commitment, noting that it was critical to peace, security and sustainable development.
Last year on 6 March 2015, we approved a set of recommendations presented by our Prime Minister on ‘Preventing Sex and Gender based Violence’. These recommendations included, formulation and enforcement of laws to combat violence against women and girls and the introduction of social protection measures.
Sri Lanka’s women activists are currently conducting grassroots level peace building and reconciliation activities including in the former conflict affected areas.
We have also implemented some peace building projects which involve joint programming by the UNDP with agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO and UN Women to implement the joint UN Program prevention of and Response to Gender-based Violence in Sri Lanka funded by UN Women.
We are giving special attention to female-headed households. The Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission 2011, has emphasized the welfare needs of the war affected women and women heads of households as a major conflict challenge that needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. For many, repeated displacements, loss of loved ones, loss of property, livelihoods and insecurity have made them most vulnerable. According to the household survey of 2012/13, Twenty Three percent of the total households of the country are headed by females. A Survey conducted has revealed that 60% of the female population are now below 60 years and are less educated.
Studies have shown that members of these households face profound multi-faceted vulnerabilities, many of which are by products of the civil war. These women face a multitude of problems including economic deprivation, exclusion from inheritance, inability to vindicate property rights, and lack of access to land.
The responsibility of the government in empowering women is stated in many of the policy documents, and action plans, especially in the National Framework Proposal, for Reintegration of Ex-combatants into the civilian life in Sri Lanka, and the Protection and Promotion of the Human Rights Framework.
Wellbeing of the female headed households is a priority area in our agenda, and several programs are being conducted for their socio-economic enhancement and addressing their psycho-social needs. We have established a National Centre for female headed households in the war affected area to address the pressing needs of war affected women. District Secretariats now have female counsellors in order to provide psycho-social support while the Women Development Officers support women to engage in household income enhancement projects. More than Rs. 100,000 million has been disbursed by my Ministry last year for this purpose. I have initiated a housing program to construct 75 houses in each Divisional Secretary area within the next five years, for the poverty stricken female heads of household, in collaboration with the Ministry of Housing.
We have stringent laws, medical and trauma treatment services including psycho social and legal support and sexual and reproductive health care services available to provide redress to the vulnerable communities. Recently the ministry has prepared a draft policy on female headed households which aims to enhance health and wellbeing of female heads of households and to address their psycho social needs.
Because we know there can be no development without peace and there can be no peace without development, it is important for us to focus, not only on goal five but goal 16 inclusive and just societies. As we embark upon this fifteen-year journey, it is important that we create a conducive environment for the gender-responsive implementation of the achievement of the sustainable Development goals.
Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Hon Chandrani Bandara (second from right) looks on as she is introduced to the audience. Minister Bandara was one of the panelists at the event titled ‘Women in Post-Conflict Reconciliation – The Road to Reconciliation: Justice, Hope and Dignity in Sri Lanka,” at the Sri Lanka Mission premises on 17th March 2016. The event was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the Association of War Affected Women (AWAW) and the International Center for Action Network (ICAN). The panel included the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans of the Republic of South Africa, Hon. Nosiviwe Noluthano Mapisa-Nqakula (second from left), Chairperson of the AWAW Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa (far right) and Co-Founder and Executive Director of ICAN Ms. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini (far left)
Picture shows a section of the audience at the Sri Lanka Mission premises as they listen to the panelists at the event titled ‘Women in Post-Conflict Reconciliation – The Road to Reconciliation: Justice, Hope and Dignity in Sri Lanka,” held at the Sri Lanka Mission premises on 17th March 2016. A robust Q & A session followed the panelist’s remarks.
Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls: A Major Obstacle to Empowerment
Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Sri Lanka
Hon. Chandrani Bandara Jayasingha
18th March 2016
3:00Pm – 5:30PM
Ladies and Gentlemen
Firstly, I am delighted to welcome you all to the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka at this most opportune time during the 60th Commission for the Status of Women, which also marks the first session of CSW, after the historic adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.
We are particularly privileged to co-host this event, on the topic of Domestic Violence Against Women - a major obstacle to women’s empowerment, co-hosted the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and by the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development.
One in three women will be beaten, raped, mutilated in their lifetime. These are the statistics from last year. Violations against women constitutes a violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of women. And yet despite these dismal statistics, most of the international and regional instruments and policy frameworks have addressed this issue comprehensively. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, calls on governments, to enact or reinforce legislation, to punish and redress violence against women and girls, in homes, workplaces, the community and society.
According to the Vienna Declaration, violence against women means any act of gender based violence, that results in, or is likely to, result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women.
Of all the forms of violence, Domestic Violence is the most common form of violence occurring across the globe. It directly violates women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. Most women suffer silently without disclosing the pain and suffering. They tolerate this abuse, in view of their dedication to the well-being of the family unit. This is mostly prevalent among poverty stricken, less educated families.
Domestic violence is directly related to unequal power relations between men and women. It is an expression of power over women in many instances, and is considered as a serious gender issue. Alcoholism, dependence on the husband’s income, lack of education, also contribute to the increase in domestic violence.
Domestic violence could be physical, sexual or psychological, occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry related, marital rape, and other practices harmful to women. It could occur through the intimate partner, or from other members of the household.
Legal remedies are in place in many countries for the protection of victims of domestic violence. In Sri Lanka, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 2005, is one of the most significant advancements made, with regard to addressing intra-family violence. This is a civil remedy where the affected party could obtain Protection Orders from the Magistrate Courts, thus sending a message to others in the community, that wife abuse, and other forms of family violence, will not be tolerated.
In Sri Lanka, even as greater awareness was created within the communities, women gradually started reporting incidents to the Women and Children’s Desks located in police stations, and now operating in many parts of the country.
Positive changes in the law can send strong messages that the state is serious and committed to further gender equality. Strong sensitive laws, provide women with tools to advocate for their rights. Setting up of separate courts for speedy dispensation of justice, and gender sensitive training for the judiciary is essential to make gender justice a reality.
The Ministry of Justice has been requested to formulate laws in this regard. My government has appointed a law reforms committee last year constituted with legal experts to work on gender discriminatory laws and mandated to recommend new laws to ensure gender equality.
However, the law itself is not adequate to tackle incidences emanating through violence. It is a multi-pronged process that requires changes at many levels in multiple sectors. Awareness raising, capacity building, research media, data collection and policies are required to develop a holistic approach in rectifying the situation.
Changing the mindset and attitude towards women and their role in society also contributes to ensuring that women are empowered and recognized. Media also could play a role in building positive images of men and women, thus changing perspectives on gender stereotypes.
Empowering women through these processes will help to promote zero tolerance of Domestic Violence. In Sri Lanka, we have established shelters for battered women in several parts of the country, and we have appointed female counsellors to each of the Divisional Secretary areas, to provide psycho social counselling for the victims.
We are also in the process of identifying vulnerable families, by conducting surveys at the community level, and providing them with life skills, and legal literacy training, so that they will be empowered to tackle violence related issues effectively.
Engaging men and boys in challenging gender stereotypes and discrimination, and promoting equitable non-violent masculinity, is one important component in addressing violence at home.
Target 5.2 of goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals on measuring the prevalence of violence against women, includes intimate partner violence. Data gathered will serve as a report card and expose the gaps in order to formulate remedial action, which would lead to protection of women and ensure their rights.
In conclusion, Sri Lanka stands firm, as we join a Global Call to Action, to Break the Cycle of Domestic Violence, so we truly Leave No One Behind.
I look forward to a most enriching and informative discussion.
Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Hon. Chandrani Bandara Jayasingha delivers her opening address at the panel discussion on ‘Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls: A Major Obstacle to Women’s Empowerment’ held on 18th March 2016 at the Sri Lanka Mission premises in New York. The event was co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka and the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY and held at the Sri Lankan Mission premises.The panel consisted of the Hon. Mrs. Sicily K. Kariuki, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, Hon. Mrs. Nana Oye Lithur, Cabinet Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of the Republic of Ghana, Ms. Carolyn. B Maloney, U.S. Congressional Representative of New York District 12, and Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.