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‘Honouring Strength & Resistance in the Face of Oppression’ – PEARL on Tamil Women’s Day

The empowerment of Tamil women is under threat from patriarchy within the Tamil community and under attack by the Sri Lankan state, said People For Equality And Relief in Lanka (PEARL), in a statement released to mark Tamil Women’s Day.

“Though advances to confront Tamil patriarchy were made during the war years, sexism and misogyny have plagued the Tamil people and Tamil activism, and continue to do so to this day,” said PEARL. “The Tamil community’s ongoing treatment of female former cadres, activists and women-headed households, shows that the earlier advances fell short.”

In addition to confronting patriarchy in both the diaspora and homeland, women’s rights are also under attack by the Sri Lankan state, PEARL said. Western NGOs and aid organisations are complicit in the attempt to depoliticise Tamil women, it added, stating that “empowerment” programs “attempt to reduce former female cadres to economic actors and victims, depoliticizing their identities and undermining progress made during the armed struggle in gaining agency and power”.

“The situation for Tamil women is exacerbated by the threat of sexual violence that results from the military occupation of the North-East, where there is up to 1 soldier for every 2 civilians. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s institutionalized impunity has enabled the unchecked, ongoing perpetration of sexual violence and torture against Tamil detainees.”

The PEARL statement concluded by saying,

“While we confront Sinhala supremacy and the assault on Tamil women by the Sri Lankan state, the fight for women’s liberation within the Tamil nation continues in parallel. As such, we call on political leaders, leaders of civil society organizations and diaspora organizations to include equal participation of women in decision-making roles; to train leadership on preventing, identifying and responding to allegations of sexual harassment and abuse; and to actively oppose traditional gender roles in favor of gender equity.”

“Anything less is a disservice to Tamil women and the Tamil nation.”

See the full statement here.