The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012 20th & 21st January, 2012 Western Province Aesthetic Resort, Colombo

Session: The Personal and the Public Date: 21st January, 2012 Time: 3.30pm-4.30pm
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The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012 The Collusion of Three Identities: Sri Lankan. Muslim. Woman. Hyshyama Hamin The paper explores some of the core issues women face within three identities. Firstly, in the very context of being women and having to deal with the impacts of unequal power relations and patriarchy and resulting consequences of gender based violence. Although society perceives the reasons for gender based violence in numerous ways, the root cause of it all is power relations and inequality – the underlying notion that males of a society have more power than females. This premise sets tone for gender roles to be designated to men and women and has for centuries spurned the practices of society through - the patriarchal ideology which together with power inequality has resulting impacts ranging from control and discriminations to violence and abuse against women and girls. One of the main factors that strengthen and compound the patriarchal ideology is religion, practiced in many forms around the world. Religion has been used as a perfect disguise under which to serve the masses certain principles, norms and values not necessarily derived from the belief in a Creator/process of creation, or the founders of that particular religion. And thus a very effective mechanism through which to impose patriarchal ideology and practices often with serious violation of rights and freedoms of women. Thus the paper explores the second identity in the context of Islam and that of a Muslim woman, having to deal with the challenges and struggles of Islam’s constantly changing and evolving discourse of religion and practices of Muslims with influences from related cultural and traditional settings. Here the paper points out two major issues/points of contention (among others) when it comes to religion and women particularly in the Islamic context, firstly the raw religion and its stance on its female constituency and gender roles between its members and secondly how religion has been taken, changed and altered to suit the patriarchal

The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012 ideology. While the former point of contention requires in-depth study, research and a good knowledge of theology and religion, the latter is more easily detectable, obvious and glaring in daily life situations. It is also on this point of contention that it is often observed that even the practices ‘forbidden’ under the particular religion is practiced by the community because it benefits men. And thus thirdly the paper explores the identity of a Sri Lankan Muslim woman and how ‘Islamic’ law and cultural norms are practiced in Sri Lanka, under the disguise of religion, having serious consequences on women and questioning the very base on which Muslim marriages and families are founded here. The paper and presentation questions these issues and the stresses need for Sri Lankan Muslims to look at and address the practical issues of how religion and religious law is followed and implemented in Sri Lanka in light of international norms on equality, rights and justice.


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