Where are the women in the Sri Lankan peace?

If and when peace comes to Sri Lanka, the new structures of political relations must be designed to preserve and advance the gains made by women in the last two decades.

The two parties to the separatist conflict in Sri Lankan—the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the federal government—have been negotiating the political future of the country since a ceasefire agreement was signed by both parties on 22 February 2002. This adds a new dimension to the work of the women's movements in Sri Lanka. Though these movements have been active in confronting the conflict over the last two decades, the transition to a potential military and political peace poses new dilemmas in framing women's concerns. The Sub-Committee on Gender Issues that has instituted within the negotiating mechanism is only one such forum for articulating and placing these concerns within the framework of constitutional and political rights. In addition to this, they will have to consider other important issues that lie outside this framework of rights which will inevitably surface in the post-conflict period.

In countries around the world that have been stricken by protracted conflict, women have been actively involved in campaigns for peace. In Northern Ireland, feminist writers have documented the efforts of women's groups from both sides to organise on working class lines, while the 'men' were negotiating a 'settlement'. Similarly, one of most striking peace campaigns, the "Women in Black", is active in the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as in the former Yugoslavia. In Peru, women's organisations persistently lobbied the state to end the war and establish democratic processes. They used the media and other networks to promote peace, and were also directly involved in humanitarian work. In South Africa, women campaigned actively against measures that restricted their mobility in addition to struggling against the apartheid regime.

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian