Saturday, 16 February 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Cheranka Mendis

‘Ah nangi,’ someone says, followed by a wolf-whistle. Another puts his head out of a passing three-wheeler and showers us with obscenities.

All this while groups of men and women stand at the Lipton Circus junction, on the roundabout and the traffic islands, holding placards in all three languages protesting against the very same thing – violence, harassment, and abuse of women and children.

Sadly ironic, but this is reality.

How many times have you seen a woman walk down the street without even one person passing judgment and causing abuse in the form of snickering, making comments, whistling, or ‘accidentally’ brushing against her?

How many times have you seen women squirm uncomfortably in the bus because some man is unnecessarily pressing against her? How many times have you read stories after stories and watched documentaries and news broadcasts about children and women being molested?

How many times have we let it go past without doing anything more than discussing with friends, putting up Facebook statuses, or accepting it as ‘the way society is today’? How many more times are we willing to do this?

The story of a woman who was sexually abused by her husband could be the story of your friend who now detests men. The story of the little girl who was molested at home by a relative could be the story of the girl who is now hiding behind a layer of anger. The person written about in the next news article about rape could be a loved one.

On Thursday, a day that usually paints the world in all shades of red – 14 February – over 100 women and men from all walks of life gathered to protest violence against women – against sexual abuse, domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, incest, and all forms of violence.

Organised by One Billion Rising Sri Lanka, part of the Global One Billion Rising movement which calls for an end to violence and for justice and gender equality, Sri Lanka joined 200 other countries in a show of collective strength.

One Billion Rising is a global strike, a revolution of its kind, refusing to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends. It is seen as an act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and the power in numbers.

In Sri Lanka alone four women/children are raped everyday, of which three are below the age of 18. Police data for the year notes that in this so-called ‘Miracle of Asia,’ six women/children are subjected to sexual harassment everyday and six women/children are assaulted daily.

2012 statistics show a 6% increase in sexual abuse of women and girls, with a recorded number of approximately 700 incidents of sexual abuse cases reported in the first half of 2012. A staggering 90% of women are being abused when using public transport. Every 90 minutes a woman is raped in Sri Lanka.

Pix by Upul Abayasekara