Guest Post : A Vision for the Future

By Thushara Dassanayake-Karunadhara

 

From common experience we know that there are very few Sri Lankan women who have not experienced some form of gender based abuse.  Whether it is in our own homes, on the bus, on the street or at work, we have all experienced men abusing women and girls – our mothers and sisters, through violence, sexual harassment, sexual violation, sexual misconduct, infidelity & non mutually agreed promiscuity or otherwise through overpowerment and disempowerment.

 

And yet, how many of us speak out? In a country where a woman’s opinion has no validity, even in matters about one’s own needs, how can we make a change?  Is the Sri Lankan woman ignored when she speaks out, hurt when she speaks out, conditioned not to speak out, or doesn’t she speak out at all?  Where do we look for solutions to this problem that is not acknowledged as a problem because of the culturally imposed invalidity of those who are voicing it?

 

In a country of many faiths, should we look to religion for a solution?  If so, there is a commonality across all major religions in the call for moderation or the middle path in all aspects of our lives.  In terms of gender, this ideal rejects the strong gender stereotypes that Sri Lankan children are brought up into.  This is the very stereotyping that causes such a polarization of gender, that leads to typical culturally accepted phrases such as ‘boys will be boys’, ‘us men are partners in crime’ ‘old soldier’ or the acceptance of the ‘lad’ or ‘kolu’ culture as well as the ‘a women’s fate’ culture.

 

Instead shouldn’t we foster in our sons, a sense of respect and value for People, irrespective of their gender? Similarly, shouldn’t we be doing the same for our daughters by teaching them to respect and acknowledge the validity their own thoughts and feelings? As parents, shouldn’t we be nurturing an awareness of emotional intelligence and sensitivity in our girl and boy children? Instead of teaching independence to our sons and dependence to our daughters, shouldn’t we be fostering a mutual and respectful interdependence based not on gender, but as members of a society who are all contributing towards common, mutually acceptable and agreeable goals?

 

Until women stop fuelling the gender fire by stereotyping our children into ‘strong independent boys’ and ‘good dependent girls’, we will remain to some extent, contributors, conspirators and perpetuators of the injustices that occur to our gender.

5 thoughts on “Guest Post : A Vision for the Future

    • We considered the phrasing of that particular sentence before posting it but it seems the author is not insinuating that it’s “only women”who do but rather, saying that women also need to stop fueling it. Maybe the author could further elaborate on it in the comments section.

      • Yes that is very true, thank you very much for commenting. All things considered, the way society is constructed means that women certainly have a much lesser role in fuelling this ‘gender fire’. What I hoped to convey is that all members of society should examine the part they play in stereotyping gender roles, and the effect this has on our society. The fact that women make up 50% of the population, and that the role of ‘mother’ is a respected one in Sri Lankan society, gives us rare power to truely affect social change. Thushara.

  1. The point here is that mothers could teach their children how to respect women. In a typical Sri Lankan home the mother serves all… the boys pick up the sense of been served and expect this form their future wives… the girls are groomed to be future ‘servants’ this trend has to end.

    • Thank you. I very much agree. Sri Lankan society has a respect for academic intellegence, however places little value on emotional intellegence. It values society, but a society that is based on patriachical heirachy and female sacrifice. As you say, there is a need for respect for women, which involves a respect and a bringing forth of an understanding, internalisation and an implimentation of female/feminist social structures, intellegences and values. I feel that we, as social educators and society members can, in our own ways, lead this change. Thushara.

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