Living with insecurity: Marginalization and sexual violence against women in north and east Sri Lanka
Four years since the end of the armed conflict, the situation of minority women in the north and east of Sri Lanka has changed dramatically – and for many it is getting worse. In the latter stages of the conflict and its aftermath, military forces were responsible for a variety of human rights abuses against the civilian population, including extrajudicial killings, disappearance, rape, sexual harassment and other violations. In the current climate of impunity, sustained by insecurity and the lack of military accountability, these abuses continue.
• Four years after the end of the armed conflict, the situation for minority women in the north and east of Sri Lanka remains deeply insecure. Thousands of women have lost husbands and other family members to death or disappearance, while human rights abuses and violations ranging from sexual violence to land grabbing continue.
• Many minority women in the north and east are now the primary income earners for their households, yet these responsibilities have not been accompanied by improved rights or status. Besides the struggle to secure land rights or access local resources, they also face limited livelihood opportunities in the post-armed conflict context and have not been properly included in official development programmes.
• The government is actively contributing to insecurity and rights violations through the pervasive militarization of the north and east, with negative consequences for the safety and freedom of minority women. Poorly managed resettlement and competing land claims among the increasingly heterogeneous population are also raising tensions between different communities.
• Women’s activists continue to advocate, often at great personal risk, for truth, justice, accountability and an end to the climate of impunity that enables ongoing rights violations. However, until a clear protection framework is in place for minority women and other marginalized groups, the prospects of a lasting peace and reconciliation process will remain elusive.