The Sunday Leader

Sri Lankan Women Say #MeToo

Marianne David, Aruni Wijayaratna and Yasisurie Kiribandara

Women across Sri Lanka have joined the #MeToo campaign against sexual abuse.

The campaign was kicked off by actress Alyssa Milano following sexual abuse allegations raised against movie executive Harvey Weinstein.

More than 40 women have accused Weinstein of sexual harrasment, abuse or rape.

In Sri Lanka, actresses, journalists, mothers and young girls posted notes on their Facebook supporting the #MeToo campaign, with some saying they had also faced abuse.

“Me too, over and over again #MeToo If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me Too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem we face. Love and solidarity to everyone saying it and everyone not saying it. We are, each of us, sharing only as much we are able to,” journalist and mother Marianne David said in a Facebook post.

Mother of two girls, Aruni Wijayaratna said that people always tell her to dress “modestly” when leaving the house, a lesson she has had to teach her daughters as well.

“But apparently, some men don’t care how you dress to feel the need to humiliate and embarrass and threaten women. I’ve had school boys wanting to “give me,” a man following me in a car and “playing with himself, being groped at an office function because “they were drunk and not in their proper senses”. This harassment of women will only change when we stop treating our sons like princes, as is part of the South Asian culture, and teach them about respecting women,” she said in a post on her Facebook.

Nishu Hassim, head of a Public Relations agency and a career mum said that she has been through harassment in public transport, on the streets and in public places millions of times.

But she has also gone through issues of being stifled because she was the only female in an all-male working environment.

“Sadly my highest boss was a woman and chose to take the “boys” word against mine. It was the only time in my life that I walked out of a job. No regrets there because I found so much better. But it is just so sad that harassment has so many forms that go unnoticed. When you tell your own child that he/she isn’t good enough THAT IS HARASSMENT. When you turn a blind eye to a pregnant woman in a bus or train THAT IS HARASSMENT.

When you demand for bribes to take a child in to a school THAT IS HARASSMENT. When you favour one child in your class over another THAT IS HARASSMENT. When you treat your wife (or husband for that matter!) like a doormat THAT IS HARASSMENT. When you abandon your parents on the streets or at an Elder’s Home THAT IS HARASSMENT. When you force a younger sibling or friend to take up smoking or alcohol coz it’s “cool” THAT IS HARASSMENT. When you refuse to give a girl child the same privileges as your sons THAT IS HARASSMENT.

*When you steal “taxes” from hard-working people and use it for your own gain THAT IS HARASSMENT. My list could just go on and on. Please don’t get me wrong. In no way is my post meant to downplay the real reason behind the hashtag and the awareness it is generating. But Harassment is real everywhere. Sometimes it comes disguised as “Prince Charming”. And others as a lucrative job offer. Sometimes it comes from your own family or friends.

Stand your ground. Say NO to EVERY type of Harassment,” she added.

Well known Sri Lankan fashion designer Yasisurie Kiribandara said that sometimes it’s the people closest to you who abuse you rather than a random person on the street.

“ I have been subjected to it in relationships. Rather than cowering best is to stand up for yourself. If in the street or at a past workplace I have spoken up even for others and fallen in trouble for that. So here’s to women who not just voice and share but do something about it,” she said.

Dilukshi Dalpethado, a manager of a website said that she has been touched inappropriately and verbally abused in public transport. This used to happen ever since she was 21.

“There was a time when a man used to follow me home and once I went home I cried copiously. I am 29 now and I still go home and cry when these things happen. Recently I posted one such experience I faced on FB. I didn’t want it to be a public post but because a few of my friends wanted to share it I made it a public post. While most of you liked, shared, supported what I did and even came forward and shared your own stories, there were a few gentlemen who questioned the authenticity of the picture I took and continuously called my story fake and he even defended the pervert. Why? Because unfortunately this bus didn’t look like a normal Sri Lankan bus. Even though I have all the proof to support my story I am not going to prove myself to anyone.

It’s sad how someone can be so pathetic enough to think someone would fabricate a story like this. I was also accused of doing this for publicity. Who in the right mind would ever want publicity for something like this? One of the men who called my story fake and defended the pervert also publicly admitted that he *jacks* women! I was also told I must be extremely good looking for men to want to touch me every time I get in to a bus or train! I am a very average looking, big made girl!

We live in a world where sons rape their own mothers and fathers rape their own daughters and men rape babies. I don’t know what country they live in but the country I live in is such. You don’t need to be a beauty queen, old, young, fat or thin to be a victim of such acts. This morning something happened to me in the bus but I’d rather keep my mouth shut than be called a liar for something I really experienced. Just because I voice my opinion doesn’t make my story “feminist bul

lshit” So yes, #metoo and for all the women who goes through this but suffers silently #shetoo,” she said.

According to reports, as of Tuesday morning, Milano’s tweet has over 19,000 retweets, more than 40,000 likes, and a whopping 55,000 replies. The hashtag has been used over half a million times on Twitter, and more than 6 million people are discussing “Me too” on Facebook.

3 Comments for “Sri Lankan Women Say #MeToo”

  1. gamarala

    American women wait for many years before complaining of sexual harassment including rape.

  2. Naga Ramalingam

    There is so much of impunity with which girls and women are inappropriately touched, groped or even sexually assaulted in Sri Lanka. The first step should be clear legal definitions of various types of sexual violations, and the laws around it. Taunting, insulting remarks, bullying and harassing happens in all settings, in schools, playgrounds and public places, The mechanisms and protocols around complaining to the Police should be improved. Women should feel comfortable and safe to complain, and this is is a far cry in Sri Lanka. Blaming the victim as if she invited the abuse because of how she looked or how she dressed is a widespread menace. We have a long way to go, but if women are given appropriate support to tell their stories without fear, we could bring a spate of culprits to book.

  3. Liberal bull shit ,its not rape it because they got in to so much in liberal bull shit ,now most of them( not all of them) want be victimized. most of them will do anything to be in TV or movie.

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