Women Recovering from Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka: Needs and Aspirations

National Stakeholder Consultation

Women Recovering from Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka: Needs and Aspirations National Stakeholder Consultation

5 December 2013 Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana

This Consultation was hosted by Women and Media Collective In collaboration withViluthu, Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum, Home for Human Rights and Rajarata Praja Kendraya Background As organisations working at the community level during the years of war in the conflict affected districts of the Northern, Eastern and North Central Provinces of Sri Lanka it has been our experience that while war affects all communities and both women and men, it affected women in different and specific ways. Living through war and its consequences caused new forms of vulnerabilities for women while it exacerbated existing disadvantages. Addressing these in the immediate aftermath of the war and thereafter is a crucial component of recovery. This includes examining women’s experiences in terms of economic and social justice. It is in this context that Viluthu, Home for Human Rights, Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum, Suriya Women’s Development Centre, the Rajarata Praja Kendraya and Women and Media Collective began a process of documentation and evidence based analysis to explore the impact of historical events i.e. in the context of the war and displacement years, on women’s lives and how these events have impacted on women’s abilities to rebuild their lives post war. In terms of the Sri Lankan Constitution’s guarantee of equality to women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), we analysed this impact through a framework of substantive equality and non-discrimination. We also used the principles set out in UN Resolution 1325 that deals with women’s security and the enabling of post war recovery and peace. These frameworks allow for the recognition of challenges women have faced in the past and how these impact on them using some of the opportunities available to them in the post war context. Objective The overall objective of our work was to develop an evidence base of the impacts of war and the post war context on women, particularly in regions that were directly affected by the conflict. Our work was in the following thematic areas and had the following objectives:

Female Headed Households (FHH)1 • • To provide a situational analysis of the conditions and options that FHH have in the current post war context. To provide evidence related to women’s access and control of the reconstruction and rehabilitation process initiated post war that can help support advocacy activities of the Forum for Women Headed Households and Vilithu.

Domestic violence2 • • To understand the conditions of women affected by domestic violence in a post-war context and the impacts it has on their families. To broaden insight into the services women who are affected by domestic violence have access to.

Female Ex-combatants3 • • • To gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the diverse and profound challenges which female ex-combatants face in post-war Sri Lanka and identify how they are coping. To provide a contextualization of how female ex-combatants are coping in their respective communities including socio, economic and security issues related to rehabilitated female excombatants who have been reintegrated into their respective societies To emphasize areas that state and non-state actors can improve these women’s lives.

Marginalised women4 • To assess the impact of displacement, resettlement and extreme marginalisation on women's lives in accessing basic needs, livelihoods and income, land, services and information, safe migration and freedom from violence within the context of development programmes that leave out women.

Woman and land5 • To access the nature of land access by women in a region that was affected by war and understand the perspective related to women’s access and rights to land.

The findings from each of these studies, identifying the impacts of the war that are present today, nearly five years after the end of the fighting were presented to sixty national, provincial, district and local level policy makers and other relevant stakeholders from both government and non1

Study undertaken by Viluthu, Centre for Human Resource Development Study undertaken by Muslim Women's Research and Action Forum (MWRAF) 3 Study undertaken by Home for Human Rights (HHR) 4 Study undertaken by Suriya Women’s Development Centre 5 Study undertaken by Rajarata Praja Kendraya

government sectors. The presentations were followed by engaged discussion and through this process were able to propose some specific conclusions and recommendations for action.

PROGRAMME Women Recovering from Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka: Needs and Aspirations 5 December 2013, Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana – Welcome and Introduction: Kumudini Samuel, Women and Media Collective Moderator: Prof. SitralegaMaunaguru, Suriya Women’s Development Centre – Presentation and discussion on Poverty and Marginalization of Women:Setheeswary, Suriya Women’s Development Centre – Presentation and discussion on Female Headed Households:S. Hariharthamotharan, Viluthu Moderator: MirakRaheem – Presentation and discussion on Women and Land Rights: RupaGamage and SheelaRathnayeke, Rajarata Praja Kendraya Moderator: ChulaniKodikara, International Centre for Ethnic Studies – Presentation and discussion on Violence against Women:Ms. U.L. Hafeela and Ms. A.M.S. JumanaHazeen, Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum Moderator: ShanthiSatchchithanandam, Viluthu – Presentation and discussion on Reintegration of Female Ex-Combatants:RanithaGnanarajah, Home for Human Rights –Recommendations and Closure The proceedings were conducted in Tamil and Sinhala with simultaneous translation Each presenter provided a situational analysis and findings and recommendations for policy and other interventions. The presentations were based on the work of six organisations in the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Kalmunai and Anuradhapura

1. Poverty and Marginalisationof Women (Batticaloa District)
Suriya Women’s Development Centre (SWDC) and Koralaipattu North Development Union, Batticaloa (KPNDU) This study contributes to the overarching research focus,‘Women recovering from conflict in post-war Sri Lanka’, with an analysis of the poverty and marginalisation faced by women in the

Batticaloa District. Two villages affected by war were selected for data collection. Eighty-two families from Village A and one hundred families from Village B participated in the study. The discussion following the presentation of the study and its findings resulted in the following recommendations: The study noted that the question of why women are not able to engage in sustainable livelihoods and escape poverty remains despite the implementation of many state and NGO projects on women. It offered the following recommendations. 1. Increase the National Budget allocation for social security. The allocation for social security being very low, further only a few people in the study area are able to benefit from it. An increase would expand this reach to more people. 2. Social security should be separated from credit schemes. Food stamps are issued for poverty alleviation and to ensure food security, but are sometimes used to set off loans. This use will further worsen women’s impoverished conditions. Thus, food stamps should be kept separate from credit schemes. 3. Social security schemes should reach poor people directly. At the moment, projects implemented by NGOs and the government are not accessible to all poor persons. 4. Ensure sustainable livelihoods for women. At present, credit taken for the purpose of engaging in livelihoods may not be channeled towards that end; it may be used to settle old loans. It is necessary to ensure that women are able to repay loans from livelihoods. 5. Loan issuing should be considered from a gender perspective siince it is taken for granted that men get the loans. A similar practice obtains for the Samurdhi scheme where funds are handed over to the husband (husbands specifically request this, in some instances). Thus it is not certain whether these funds are utilised for what they were meant. 6. Leasing companies and lenders should be properly monitored and controlled, and the government should ensure the provision of low interest rates, since leasing companies and private lenders charge exploitative interest rates that can be as high as between 50% to 100% of the capital borrowed. 7. Loan issuing should be done with sensitivity to the circumstances of poor women who had lost both livelihoods and education and lack economic literacy. 6. Recognition should be given to women’s informal work. The investigators suggested that policy reforms at the national level could follow from these recommendations. They called for more attention to be paid to roads that are not motorable, as well as to infrastructure and transport facilities which remain inadequate, affecting children’s school attendance and safety, and the marketing of produce amongst other things. They

emphasised that water supply remains an issue, since women have to walk long distances and waste their time to access water. Distance to hospitals was also identified as a problem, as people had to travel a long way to access those services.

2. Female headed households (Vavuniya, Jaffna and Batticaloa)
Viluthu In connection with the main research theme, the study on female headed households was carried out in Vavuniya, Jaffna and Batticaloa in the post-war period. It aimed to elicit information on the challenges that they faced at individual, family, and community levels. Qualitative and quantitative methods (including focus group discussions) were used in the research. The total sample comprised 270 female headed households—i.e. 90 per district. The investigators understood ‘female heads of households’ to include widows, women who were separated, women who were married, and women who had never married. The definition of this category also depended on how it was interpreted by the women consulted for the study. As the investigators explained, it is necessary to understand that women referred to themselves as women heads of households in a context where many husbands had gone missing or had been kidnapped. The discussions resulted in the following recommendations: 1. Government statistics regarding FHH vary at every level due to the lack of a universally accepted definition of FHH. An official definition for FHH must be arrived at in order to account for them in national plans. 2. A majority of women in the study are confronted with multiple constrains. The study revealed that many of the women are psycho-socially affected by the war and by post war conditions and needed psycho-social counseling. 3. FHH’s access to livelihood opportunities especially those related to traditional livelihoods that are being revived in war affected regions limit opportunities and add to conditions of poverty. In instances when women are involved in village activities, they are more aware of rights and responsibilities and have better leadership skills. Initiatives need to build on such successes and provide more opportunities so that women can move out of poverty and improve their wellbeing. 4. The creation of a facilitating environment is necessary to increase the livelihood options of the women affected by conflict in the areas under study. For this to happen, future planning process and development interventions need to consider carefully the scope in the North and East, nature and burden of different livelihood options open to women in FHHs. 5. It is necessary to identify a corresponding marketplace and to provide it when livelihoods support is considered. Livelihoods should be provided only on that basis.

6. The process could involve discussions with bank managers and the creation of mechanisms to provide credit facilities. 7. Fertilizer and other subsidy schemes need to be open to women who engage in highland cultivation. 8. Since women are engaged in wage labour in the agriculture sector they should be supported to unionize. 9. Government livelihood support programmes must have no age limit and be applicable to all women headed households regardless of age. 10. A pension scheme for widows that provides for a living allowance must be implemented urgently. A special education allowance should be provided for children who live below the poverty line.

3. Land rights issues related to war affected women
Rajarata Praja Kendraya The study on land rights issues related to war affected women was conducted in three villages in the Vilachchiya and Kebithigollawa D/S Divisons. The survey included collecting historical information on land use patterns in Anuradhapura. The presenter observed that women did not have land rights in patriarchal societies, and that the youngest male child in the family was given property. Two other observations were that the boundaries of agriculture lands were not marked, and that people were not obtaining registration for their land. The objective of the study was to find out the extent to which the women affected by war have lost their land rights and whether other parties have gained land rights. The investigators sought comparative information. They also collected information about government officers, the community, the problems faced by women and the community when they had lost their land, and what kind of access to land was available to women affected by war.The moderator stated that the study had identified common problems such as lack of awareness on land rights, women’s right to land, joint ownership issues, and militarization. The investigators noted that in the north east and north central areas, the land issue was a burning issue and that the current forum offered a welcome opportunity to discuss it. The study proposed the following recommendations: 1. Create an awareness programme on land rights for women in the Anuradhapura district 2. Ensure that women have access to ownership of state land in their own right and amend the Land Development Ordinance accordingly so that women can have joint title with men to state land 3. Calls on the state to ensure the rights of people living in the ‘border villages’ who were also affected by conflict and require assistance in post war recovery

4. Calls on the government to include these areas and the people living in them in the design and implementation of post war policy including in the areas of resettlement, livelihoods, shelter and land ownership, particularly in relation to women 5. Ensure that the original inhabitants of villages abandoned due to the war are resettled and given appropriate assistance to rebuild their lives with the gendered needs of women also catered for 6. Ensure that the LLRC recommendations in relation to land was implemented in the Anuradhapura district 7. Ensure that problems related to loss of documents due to war are resolved 8. Establish an ongoing programme to promote human rights. The goal should be to convert people from a ‘dependency mentality’ to a rights -based mentality 9. Ensure that government officials working on land issues are gender sensitive and have the interests of women in mind when they deal with land issues 10. Create a government-NGO-private sector network to provide services, since NGOs sometimes work in isolation although they work in these areas

4. Study on Domestic Violence
Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum The study on women affected by domestic violence in the post conflict context was related to the work conducted by MWRAF in the Kalmunai area. In preliminary comments, the investigators stated that women suffered psychological effects as a result of domestic violence, and that it was important to provide counselling. Women must be able to make decisions, and it was important to work towards ensuring that they were courageous. Outlining their methodology, the investigators stated that their research was conducted through 3 women’s centres. The sample size was 56 case studies selected on a random basis from Ninthavur, Sainthamaruthu, Kalmunai, Neelavanai in the Ampara District and Malikaikaadu, Sainthamaruthu, Kalmunai, Natpittimunai, Pandiruppu, Maruthamunai, Neelavanai and Eravur in Eravur DS Division in the Batticaloa district. The participants in all case studies were Muslim women who were affected by domestic violence. The study used a structured question guide and included two or three visits to the women’s houses. It also included existing information in the case files at the MWRAF women’s centres, from 2001 -2012.The investigators stated that although awareness programmes had been conducted for Mediation Board members particularly on how to handle issues in cases of domestic violence, referring to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, they observed that men apply for divorce when there is an issue and they do not tend to opt for a settlement (the rate of cases of settlement were very low in the Qazi courts). In cases where a man applies for a divorce in a Qazi court and makes that intention known, there is no space to compromise and no possibility to suggest approaching the Mediation Board. The investigators reiterated that they aimed to provide relief to women in the appropriate ways.

During the discussion there were calls for amendments to Muslim Personal Laws by some of the participants while others felt that this could not be done. An audience member made the point that Muslim Personal Law has been amended several times already, and it was not tenable to say that it could not be done. She observed that the law includes provisions that are discriminatory against women and also go against verses in the Koran, just as there are aspects in the Koran that are not in the law. The Recommendations following the discussion were: 1. Since the study found that women approached the Qazi Courts for resolution of family related problems the Court should be gender sensitive particularly in matter of divorce and maintenance as well as second marriages 2. The rights of the first wife should be protected and upheld in the case of mencontracting second marriages 3. Ensure that Muslim Personal Law in connection with awarding women some compensation after divorce is amended so that women’s rights are protected. The method of compensation should be legalized and the amount of compensation legally determined so that Qazi Court judges cannot use their discretion in a way that is disadvantageous to women 4. Women judges should be appointed to the Qazi courts, in order for women to present their issues confidentially. 5. The law should be reformed to ensure that the dowry given at marriage, should be returned to the woman at the time the divorce is finalized. This recommendation was made in the light of the present situation where women have to file a case after divorce to get their dowry back, and have to visit the Qazi court several times. 6. The police need to be sensitized to accept complaints of domestic violence from women and to use the Domestic Violence Act to ensure that women can obtain protection orders

5. Female ex-combatants (Home for Human Rights)
Home for Human Rights After the screening of the Home for Human Rights (HHR) film on female ex-combatants, the presenters observed that the government report on how to address female ex-combatants was still pending and insufficient action has been taken by the authorities to reintegrate them into society. They stated that HHR’s objective in making the film was to ask if the rehabilitated women’s reintegration into society was successful. Female ex-combatants face complicated challenges. The reintegration process has not gone smoothly for the vast majority, and genuine assimilation remains a distant dream. Under high levels of militarization, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of association

for female ex-combatants have been greatly restricted. These women are compelled to live in fear and many suffer from depression. Many of the women who participated in the interviews are Female Heads of Household. They have the ability to take care of their family members, but they do not receive any support from their respective communities. Ex-combatants need additional support and training to improve their lives. Additionally, many female ex-combatants are still missing husbands who fought alongside them; this has created profound problems. They need emotional support, but community members and government officials have not been able to address this need. Some female ex-combatants have been forced to marry for their own protection, and these forced marriages have also created problems for women.

Recommendations to Government of Sri Lanka and Civil Society Organizations: 1. To allow female ex-combatants to enjoy to the full their rights as citizens of Sri Lanka following their reintegration into society. 2. To create support and counseling services to meet the psycho-social needs of female excombatants in the country’s conflict -affected areas. 3. To provide additional financial resources to female ex- combatants to defray the cost of infrastructure such as housing, toilet facilities and wells. 4. To create additional livelihood opportunities for female ex-combatants. 5. To ensure that local officials such as GramaNiladharis or Women’s Development Officers monitor the reintegration of female ex-combatants and provide additional support as needed. 6. To consult rehabilitated female ex-combatants on future policy/project design and implementation. 7. To allow civil society groups and community based organizations the opportunity to play a mediation role to help/assist the combatants in the process of reintegration. 8. To work with families and communities to which female ex combatants return to ensure that they do not discriminate against them or ostracize them from society Recommendations to the UN and the International Agencies working on Post War Recovery: 9. To provide sex disaggregated data on rehabilitated ex-combatants. 10. To ensure the right to Rehabilitation to all female ex-combatants. 11. To advocate for female ex-combatants to enjoy their rights as citizens of Sri Lanka after their reintegration into society and to use the principles enshrined in Security Council Resolution 1325 to ensure reintegration 12. To ensure health and psycho-social support for female ex-combatants in order to reduce the health issues and increase the emotional wellbeing of ex-combatants.

13. To advocate for the expeditious conduct of investigations into complaints recorded at the law maintaining institutions and ensure that offenders are punished. Conclusion The forum was brought to a conclusion with a presentation from the Research Coordinator outlining the next step in the process. In consultation with the five groups, she explained, the idea was to present the study in a way that policy makers will understand the findings, and that will not harm work at the local level. The Parliamentary Women’s Caucus would be approached, and MPs from the government and from the opposition would be asked to identify key ministers and key ministries (Economic Development, Justice, Women’s Affairs, Rehabilitation etc.), in order to arrange for discussion in Parliament at the highest level, with the expectation that the findings would be incorporated into policy. She emphasized that work at the local level remained important, and that it was necessary to keep advocating and working closely with those who implement policy decisions at the local level.

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