Politico-religious extremism and violence against women in Sri Lanka

An analysis of how women are targeted in conflict-ridden Sri Lanka

In her report, commissioned by the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Dr Shyamika Jayasundara-Smits argues that despite progressive national policies and becoming a signatory to numerous international conventions there has been a steady increase of gender-based violence, especially violence against women, in Sri Lanka since 2009.

Part of a project aimed at understanding state capacity to address violence against women and children in the context of religious extremism, this report by Jayasundara-Smits argues that the continuing conflict between the majority Sinhala-Buddhists and the minority Tamils and Muslims manifests itself in gender-based violence and discrimination.

Jayasundara-Smits focuses on the 'post-war' period, i.e., the period after the end of ethnic violence between Tamil and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka. She finds that Sri Lanka’s reputation as an egalitarian society— where women enjoyed relatively equal status in the state and society—took a turn for the worse in the late 70s as a result of war, the extensive militarization and the rise of populist politics.

The argues that the shift to authoritarian populist politics under the two Rajapaksa presidencies were instrumental in forging a dangerous symbiosis between religious extremism and violence against women. Bolstered by the public endorsement of Buddhist extremists, the Rajapaksa regimes renewed their pursuit of the Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony.

Although her study has focused on Buddhist extremism’s role in escalating violence against women, she argues that both the clergy and citizens, and Muslim extremists are culpable for inflicting violence on women across ethnic, class and religious boundaries.

Read the full report

'Politico-religious extremism and violence against women in Sri Lanka' - Extremism and gender-based violence: South Asia

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