Responses to Concluding Observations of the CEDAW Committee dealing with Conflict1 Shadow Report prepared by Women and Media

Collective, Sri Lanka2 February 2014

56/1, Castle Street, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka

This Shadow Report deals with some of the CEDAW Committees Concluding Observations, made to Sri Lanka in paragraph 41 – ref.CEDAW/C/LKA/CO/7/Add.1


This report was edited by Kumudini Samuel, on behalf of the Women and Media Collective and is primarily based on studies conducted, in 2012/2013, by five locally based women’s rights and human rights organisations working in the conflict affected districts of Sri Lanka. The organisations were Home for Human Rights, Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum, Rajarata Praja Kendraya Suriya Women’s DevelopmentCentre and Viluthu. See “Women Claiming Rights: Using normative frameworks of UNCR 1325 & CEDAW Study on Women Affected by Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka:Selected cases of Marginalisation and Poverty; Female Headed Households; Female Ex-combatants; Land Rights and Domestic Violence”, Women and Media Collective February 2014.


This report deals with the following sections ofParagraph 41 of the CEDAW concluding observations on conflict and post war recovery in Sri Lanka (a) To protect women affected by the prolonged conflict, particularly the Tamil minority group, including internally displaced women and female ex-combatants, from any form of human rights violations; 1. Female ex-combatants Providing information in follow up to the concluding observations of the CEDAW Committee, the Sri Lankan government states: “As of 4 March 2013, 11,528 (9,275 male and 2,253 female) persons … have been rehabilitated and reintegrated into society… In view of the need to make the rehabilitated women ex-combatants employable, special vocational training programmes were organized for them in fields such as bridal and hair dressing, modeling, beauty and make up, nursery management, and Juki machine operations. Some of them were given on the job training to make way for absorption into permanent cadres in their respective institutions. Some opted for foreign employment after requisite training.”(Ref. CEDAW/C/LKA/CO/7/Add.1: page 6) According to a study conducted among 128 rehabilitated female ex-combatants (RFEC), it was found that theirreintegration into societyis a complex issue at the level of the family, the community and society as a whole as well as economically, culturally and politically.3 The government’s process of rehabilitation was designed without consultation with the ex-combatants and the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) processes focused mainlyon male combatants who played active military roles. This approach neglected the complex roles women played during the war, including the new skills they acquired in non-traditional functions such as district administration, construction, heavy vehicle driving, etc. Trained as the government reports above, in a new set of more traditional and gendered skills, many of these women had little choice but to return to traditional roles within their respective communities creating a mismatch between acquired skills and existing experiences.45% of women were not satisfied with the rehabilitation training they received and 55% were unable to make use of their experiences and skills (RFEC Study).This was due to capacity development opportunities being short-term, vocational skills being unsuitable, and other limited educational opportunities. In addition prospective employersare reluctant to employ these women as they are perceived to have transgressed from traditional gendered roles and also because of the high levels of military scrutiny they are subject to. 1.1 Security and Freedom of Movement

Findings from a study conducted by the Home for Human Rights Sri Lanka among 128 rehabilitated female ex-combatants from 8 districts Jaffna, Mannar, Killinochchi, Mullaitheivu, Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Akkaraipattu, Trincomalee – in “Women Claiming Rights: Using normative frameworks of UNCR 1325 & CEDAW Study on Women Affected by Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka: Selected cases of Marginalisation and Poverty; Female Headed Households; Female Ex-combatants; Land Rights and Domestic Violence” , Women and Media Collective February 2014.


These women returned to communities that are still highly militarized. They are expected to report monthly to military civil offices in their respective villages.On occasion, some of these women have allegedly been requested to provide sexual favours in return for help with reporting or registration requirements. The fact that many of these women no longer have husbands exacerbates this already difficult situation and pushes the women to vulnerable positions. 42% of respondents noted that they are under the continuous monitoring of military personnel and are compelled to restrict their mobility. 23% feared re-arrest limiting their mobility. This continued scrutiny brings about a certain community suspicion and mistrust of female ex-combatants resulting in their further discrimination and marginalization from general community life.Many female ex- combatants refuse to go by themselves to make a complaint at a police station – fearing that they will be the victims of more intimidation or that they will be interrogated or re arrested. 1.2 Cultural Constraints Female ex-combatants were reintegrated with their families and communities through various processes. However their families and the communities were not part of the reintegration process and were neither consulted nor prepared about how to respond to returnee combatants. The women return to societies that are still steeped in patriarchal values and are perceived to be transgressors and misfits. Society at large rejects them for taking up arms and fighting alongside with men shattering the view that women are submissive, and their role was mainly that of wives and mothers.4 The change to their very identities is often underestimated, unacknowledged and considered in very limited ways.5 These women therefore face social and cultural discriminations, stigma andostracisation from families and communities – are not invited to participate in auspicious events and are not able to find suitable employment or marriage opportunities. They are also vulnerable to violence in their families due to their dependency. 1.3 Livelihoods Many of these women have no savings and are not seen as viable for investment loans or assistance as they are unable to meet the requirements of banks or other financialinstitutions for collateral. Many of them engage in home-based work, which is unpaid, and wage labour, which is periodic and temporary. 51% have received livelihood support from the State and different organizations but the support has not enabled them to develop a livelihood activity that is long-term and sustainable. Their current earnings are less than LKR.5,0006 or between LKR.5,000 – LKR.10,000. 21% of respondents are female heads of household and this makes them the sole income earner, which is even more challenging given the social, cultural and economic discrimination they face. Many of them are dependent on their families.

Video Female ex-combatants of LTTE in post-war Sri Lanka, online: <>. The Social Architects South Asia,”Haunted By Her Yesterdays”, March 2013 <online:>.
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At the current rate of exchange (January 2014) 1US Dollar = approximately LKRs.125.


(d) To provide adequate infrastructure for women IDPs and returnees especially housing and health facilities, water and sanitation; Displacement was a common feature in the 30 years of war with many families and communities experiencing multiple displacements – suffering loss of life, livelihoods and depletion of assets. The final battles in the East and the North also resulted in large scale long term displacement in the period 2007 to 2010. Almost all of the displaced have now been returned to their places of origin or re-settled elsewhere. There are still a number of displaced families who have been resettled but have had no adequate access to housing assistance and therefore living in shacks with no viable avenues for pursuing livelihoods (Study on Female headed households – FHH Study).7

All the women respondents in a study of 82 households(40%) and 100 households (56%), in two villages, in the Batticaloa district, Eastern Sri Lanka, (Batticaloa Study)mentioned that they faced displacement more than five times.8 2. Early and Enforced Marriage In the Batticaloa study, 20% were widowed or separated and were heading their households. 53.5% of the women had married at 18 years old or were co-habiting at a younger age. Almost 1 in every 10 of these women had ‘married’ (begun co-habitation) younger than age 15.Parents ‘married’ off their daughters at a very young age, while being displaced, due to the fear of sexual violence. Another point for concern was that 22.7% (1 in 5) of women who had married at or co-habited before 18 years of age, had done so within the last 4 years. Therefore, early ‘marriage’ seemed to be a continuing practice in the post war context. 3. Education In the village study of 82 households, apart from one, none of the adults had education beyond secondary level.Even though displacement, loss of assets, and denial of access to education affected both men and women, for women, it had created gendered intensified disadvantages in the post war context. Specifically this meant vulnerabilities in responding to spiraling poverty, exploitation by sub agents when seeking employment as migrant workers, exploitation by middlemen when trying to sell their products, getting caught to loan schemes with high interest rates, and difficulties in negotiating power relations within the home resulting in domestic violence.

Study of 270 Female Headed Households in selected regions of the Jaffna, Vavuniya and Batticaloa districts, See

“Women Claiming Rights: Using normative frameworks of UNCR 1325 & CEDAW Study on Women Affected by Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka:Selected cases of Marginalization and Poverty; Female Headed Households; Female Ex-combatants; Land Rights and Domestic Violence”, Women and Media Collective, February 2014

See “Women Claiming Rights: Using normative frameworks of UNCR 1325 & CEDAW Study on Women Affected by Conflict in Post War Sri

Lanka:Selected cases of Marginalization and Poverty; Female Headed Households; Female Ex-combatants; Land Rights and Domestic Violence”, Women and Media Collective, February 2014


In both the villages,(Batticaloa study), there was a high drop-out rate among children at 14 years during paddy harvesting season when boys and girls started working to support their families. Distance of the school and lack of transport was another reason. Boys who dropped out got into work immediately, however, for girls the options seemed to be limited to the home, adding to the risk of early marriage.

4. Resettlement and Livelihoods In the Batticaloa Study, 87% of women respondents, from one of the villages, said that they have not been able to start an independent livelihood of their own since being resettled. Some had obtained livelihoods assistance but these attempts had not been viable or sustainable. Some women noted the loss of assets as well as lack of capital, inability to sell their products due lack of transport and access to markets, lack of water for part of the year and lack of opportunities for skills upgrading as reasons for their inability to start a viable livelihoods option. There seemed to be little support to the women to diversify production so everyone was not involved in the same livelihoods activity. This was a common observation – made by female heads of household, women ex-combatants, women living in poverty, in all the studies. In addition 1 in every 10 households had got a loan as livelihoods or housing/repairs assistance with a very heavy repayment burden. Illustrating the spiraling poverty and exploitative loan schemes the Batticaloa study records the story of a woman who with 30 other women had taken loans from a finance company that came as a mobile service to her village. The loans were conditional. The women had to be between the age of 18-50. The women made a 45.6% additional repayment on the initial capital borrowed. Such mobile banking services – provided by the private sector are a common feature in remote and poor villages and appear to be sanctioned by the State where women’s lack of collateral and economic literacy compel them to obtain loans at exploitative rates. In these areas domestic violence was very high. However, very few women reported these cases to the Police. According to some key informants, there were areas in extreme poverty and women were commonly engaging in sex work to survive. However, due to the sensitivity of the issue and the stigma around sex work it was not possible to verify the extent of this phenomenon. 5. Social Safety Nets (Samurdi) One of the most important safety nets for extremely poor and marginalised families has been the State sponsored Samurdi9 scheme. However, despite extreme poverty in both villages studied, women faced some challenges to accessing their right to social security benefits.Government officers noted that the numberof beneficiaries - 86,824 in 2009, reduced to 79,181 in 2012. In one of the villages only 24% families were receiving Samurdi assistance.Of the allocated LKR.750 they only received LKR.500per family per month. To collect the money they had to go 19 kilometers to the nearest Samurdi Bank


State safety net targeting people below the poverty line.


costing LKR.200 one way. In the other village, 54% families were on Samurdi. 50 families were receiving LKR.500 cash in hand. Women who were in extreme poverty perceived Samurdi assistance as a long term social security to protect them through rapid fluctuations of income and preferred to stay on the safety net. Therefore, the target oriented programming of the scheme, seemed to fall short of the realities of poor people’s lives. Assessment of income yearly, and taking off families yearly, seems a short sighted strategy to deal with the high risk of poverty dynamics. The demand on state officials not to increase the number of Samurdi recipients without removing others, seem to work against a philosophy of a social safety net for the poor. Another concern was the linking of the social protection support with the repayment of Samurdi loans. Since the social welfare was now a cash grant, this was held back when women had failed to repay loan installments. One of the main challenges was that the Samurdi registration was in the man’s name. The registration can be in the women’s name, only if the man has gone out of the village on work or was unwell; even in these cases the man had to give a letter stating that his wife can collect the stamp amount. This also highlights the gendered experiences of women who may have opportunities to access services but due to the patriarchal state policies and structures they are denied their right to services. Also since the change of the stamp into cash women felt they had lost more control over the money as men sometimes took most of the money for their own expenses. Women often participated in the Samurdi meetings and were members of the various Samurdi groups. However the state policy was to register the household under the man’s name as ‘head of household’. This also had implications for women who had been abandoned by their husbands, whose husbands had two ‘marriages’, or those who were facing domestic violence. 6. Access to water During the dry season women had to walk a minimum of 2Km-3Km (one way) to get the water taking up to 3 hours a day. Women spoke of the harassment and discomfort they faced while bathing at the public well as men sometimes watched the women and passed comments (Batticaloa Study). Lack of water affected women in many ways. As one woman mentioned “all our other work, like sending children to school, looking after our vegetables, cooking, cleaning, keeping the family healthy, earning our own income, time to do a livelihoods activity, all depends on having access to water”. Therefore the denial of this right impacts on so many other rights for women (ibid.). 7. Transport For many of the women across all the studies lack of adequate transport was a major problem preventing them from accessing benefits or engaging to the optimum in livelihood activities.


(e) To include provision for economic and social rights in post-conflict reconstruction including through the adoption of temporary special measures; 7. Female Headed Households and Widows10 The percentage of female heads of household has increased significantly due to the war. They are often seen as a homogenous group, at the national policy and implementation level as well as at the community level. A study conducted of 270 FHH (FHH Study) revealed that a majority of FHH were married and widowed (of various age groups), others had separated from their spouses or spouses had disappeared/abducted and a small proportion were single and living on their own or abandoned by husbands. This indicates heterogeneity of FHH. The mean incomes of the FHH were LKR. 3,875 per month and day wage earnings were between LKR300-400 per week for two-three days of work. This is is insufficient to meet daily needs and in some instances they borrow from neighbors for daily food needs. Access to livelihood assistance is a key concern for FHHs post-war. They are often the most vulnerable and affected by poverty albeit poverty figures are not available for this group. They are characterised by limited income generation opportunities. A majority have received some form of assistance from government and non-governmental sources to commence livelihood activities. To be eligible for assistance they must show total loss, loss of a husband, loss of livelihood property, and dependency. Also, Government livelihood support programmes have an age limit. However, there are many who still do not receive any assistance;a majority (87.4%) were dissatisfied with this assistance and wanted a stable,long term source of income. FHH are engaged in a range of livelihood activities. 24.8% of women were employed in state sector jobs, 11.9% were unemployed. 5.6% engage in household work only, while 2.2% were unable to work due to disability. The majority engage in wage labour working in rice mills, paddy fields and chena cultivation, small scale businesses such as running grocery shops, processing and selling rice, sewing, and making milk products for sale. These are simple and small scale and not attuned to market demands and opportunities. They only provide subsistence income. FHH also face stigma within their families. They are treated differently, are not spoken to with respect and not invited to auspicious events. Women involved in village activities were more aware of rights and responsibilities and had better leadership skills. 8. Land Rights A study in Anuradhapura11 established that land ownership is among the most critical problems faced by war-affected women. Women’s access to land is low (80% do not have access) and when they do have it

The information in this section of the report is from a study conducted by Viluthu of a sample of 270 Female Headed Households. Interviews were held with FHH who were widows, ex-combatants, girls and women who were married during their teens, differently-abled women and single women. Data was collected from selected areas in the former war torn Jaffna, Vavuniya and Batticaloa Districts. See footnote 7.

Study conducted by the Rajarata Praja Kendraya (RPK Study) in 3 villages of the Anuradhapura district which adjoins the districts of the conflict affect north and east of the country. The villages studied were directly affected by the conflict with families displaced multiple times.


they do not have proof of ownership. In some cases they have no security (not even a land permit), living and cultivating land they do not have a right to. Only 10% of the women in the study had a right to the landthey lived on or cultivated.Only 20% of men feel that women should have the right to land. On the other hand, 80% of women feel that dual ownership for land is suitable. This was particularly in regard to State land alienation under the Land Development Ordinance.12A majority of men in their communities do not feel that women have the right to land, or the right to control it despite their significant role in maintaining the land, farming it and protecting the crops grown on it. This is a huge gap in terms of addressing the issue, which moves beyond simple provision to ensuring that women have equitable rights to land access and ownership as well as making decisions related to land use and the use of the resources available on the land.

The study found that these areas immediately adjacent to the north and east of the country received very little post conflict assistance. Seefootnote 2.

The Land Development Ordinance 1935 (LDO) applies the principle of primogeniture (or preference for males in any category of heirs) on death of a male permit holder of State land. Under this Ordinance a surviving spouse has only a life interest in the land, unless nominated by the husband who is a permit holder as a successor to the land. She loses this life interest on remarriage. Though this provision applies to widowers too, research indicates that it impacts negatively on women who must leave the land after marriage. Research studies in the settlement areas clearly indicate that women are not being allocated permits for land under the LDO because of its discriminatory Schedule III.


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