Violence against women is widespread in Sri Lanka. Incidences of rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, incest, assault, obscenity against women, unwanted advances, perverted acts, forced pornography, forced prostitution and media violence all prevail in Sri Lankan society. These issues receive attention from diverse sectors, the State, non government sector and civil society, which address preventive measures and provide redress for victims. Despite this attention, violence against women continues to take place in the private and public sphere and the measures taken to prevent and redress, remain insufficient.
In Sri Lanka, gender based violence ranges from sexual harassment in public spaces to acts of violence within the privacy of the home or at workplaces. It is acknowledged that the issue of who or which group in society has more power than others and who can exert acts of gender based violence is not restricted to economic power but is very much rooted in notions of social power and hierarchies in access to exercising such power. Thus the concept of gender based violence necessarily includes two aspects – violence which arises out of asymmetrical power relations resulting from socialisation processes, as well as gender based discrimination arising from structural violence against women, as can be seen, for example through the impact of violence against women as a result of armed conflict.