May 2, 2014
Only Until the Rice is Cooked? The Domestic Violence Act, Familial Ideology, and Cultural Narratives in Sri Lanka
In August 2005, the Sri Lankan Parliament unanimously passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act No 34 (PDVA), marking the culmination of a legal advocacy process initiated by a coalition of women’s NGOs in 1999. The unanimous vote, however masked deep hostility and anxieties expressed by a number of Members of Parliament (MPs), about the need for such an Act, its ‘western’, NGO origins antithetical to Sri Lankan culture and its negative impact on the family. The Act, as eventually passed, fell short of the expectations of women’s organisations, particularly as it failed to recognize gender as a structure of power that distinguishes women’s and girls’ experience of domestic violence, from that of men and boys. It is nevertheless a significant departure from the status quo pertaining to familial violence, which, as this paper demonstrates, has opened up ‘a discursive space of struggle’ over the meaning of such violence as well as new possibilities of resistance against such violence.