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Women's Rights

Women victimised at times of crisis – activists

By Nisali De Silva

A collective of women’s rights activists said yesterday (23) that women, being a vulnerable part of society, are victimised at a time of political and social crisis.

At a media briefing held in Colombo, spokespersons for the ‘Women for Peace, Non-violence and Equality’ brought to light several instances where women were marginalised and victimised in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings.

Attorney-at-law Ermiza Tegal said that following the ban on face coverings, many Muslim women were subjected to different forms of harassment.

“It was only 20 days after declaring an emergency that we saw the proscribing of the [organiations responsible for the attacks]. The difference in how easily the rulers came to ban the face coverings versus the time taken to proscribe these organisations is something that should be looked into,” she said.

Tegal noted that in the wake of the face cover ban, even women wearing any form of Muslim clothes including Abayas were subjected to harassment.  

“They were asked to remove their Abayas which they wear over the clothes at public institutions. Some teachers were not able to enter the schools wearing the Abaya. So we ask the authorities to reconsider the ban unless it is absolutely necessary for verification,” she said.

“A woman was arrested by the police for wearing a dress with symbols which they thought looked like the ‘Darmachakraya’ (the wheel of Dhamma, a traditionally Buddhist symbol). These are the arbitrary instances where laws are used”, she added.

Commenting on the responsibility of the media in this regard, Dilrukshi Handunetti, a journalist and lawyer, pointed out that media organisations have a collective responsibility to publish news in an ethical manner which does not harm the peace and reconciliation in the country.