A Plea for Helping Tamil Women in Sri Lanka in Their Search for Justice

On International Women’s Day

by Usha Sriskandarajah, March 10, 2019

As the world marks International Women’s Day, my thoughts are with Tamil women back in the homeland.

Tamil women and girls in the island of Sri Lanka once known as Ceylon have been fighting against oppression, against marginalization, against violence, against the relentless persecution of their race for more than 70 years.

Their struggle for freedom and justice hasn’t ended yet.

At the beginning Tamil women agitated for parity in language rights. This was when the Sinhala Only bill was introduced, relegating Tamils and their language to second class status. All peaceful protests based on the Gandhian principles of Satyagraha and civil disobedience were violently crushed.

Upon independence from Britain, and as Sinhala Buddhist supremacist philosophy spread, bigotry https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sinhala-buddhist-bigotry-root-cause-of-strife-in-sri-lanka/ started to rear its ugly head and take root. Ceylon became the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the little protection {section 29 (2)} written into Ceylon’s Soulbury constitution, that Britain left, to protect Tamils against the ‘tyranny of the majority,’ was illegally removed outside parliament  https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/acts-of-betrayal-that-broke-the-letter-spirit-of-independence/. With the adoption of more oppressive and discriminative policies, Tamils began to agitate for separation to chart their own destiny.

The Vaddukodai Resolution of 1976 https://www.sangam.org/FB_HIST_DOCS/vaddukod.htm receiving an overwhelming mandate from the Tamil people in the general election of 1977, declared in no uncertain terms https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/vaddukoddai-resolution-more-relevant-now-than-ever-before/, “that the restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of TAMIL EELAM based on the right to self determination inherent to every nation, has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation in this country.”

Thus began the struggle for a separate state.

When all peaceful means for liberation was exhausted, Tamil women took up arms and stood shoulder to shoulder with Tamil men, second to no one, showing unbelievable and unparalleled courage and chivalry this world has ever witnessed. They fought hard to liberate the Tamil homeland, alongside Tamil men,  against Sri Lankan army occupation, amidst government sponsored pogroms, the passage of the 6th amendment which criminalized all advocacy for a separate Tamil state, amid government imposed embargo on fuel and other necessities, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/solidifying-legitimacy-for-an-independent-tamil-eelam/ and the arrival of an Indian peacekeeping force that turned against Tamils.

Tamil women freedom fighters fully involved themselves in a war that lasted nearly 30 years.

The war ended when the Government of Sri Lanka decimated the armed rebellion and the Tamil liberation movement in May 2009, committing mass atrocities and genocide. Tens of thousands of http://jdsrilanka.blogspot.com/2011/06/channel-4-documentary-sri-lankas.html innocent civilians were killed http://www.tamilcanadian.com/article/6279 from government shelling and bombing and through extra-judicial executions.

Today on International Women’s Day, I want to salute the war affected yet still brave women of Tamil Eelam for their courage, convictions and fortitude. I salute, the freedom fighters who defended the soil of our beloved homeland and all those who’ve sacrificed their lives for freedom. I salute the mothers who desperately want to know the fate of their children disappeared by the Sri Lankan state, who have kept vigil, demanding answers and protesting relentlessly for more than two years out on the street; all the women who are defiant, who won’t give up fighting to get their land back from an occupying Sri Lankan army; all the war widows; all the girls orphaned by war; all the single mothers; all women breadwinners; all the hard working housewives and mothers who never rest; those women enduring poverty, caught in a debt trap laid by loan sharks charging exorbitant interest; those women slighted by the caste system; women who can’t marry because there are fewer men after the war or have to suffer persecution and harassment from husbands or in-laws because their parents cannot furnish the dowry demanded of them and or victimized by the Tamil society’s preoccupation with astrological considerations and planetary positions; women who have and are undergoing sterlisation because of purported financial incentives they have been or were promised, women oppressed and battered by their husbands or by men in the family; women who are psychologically abused; women and girls who are victims of incest; women who have to resort to prostitution for a living; women and girls who have been raped and who are the victims of sexual violence, abuse and torture.

I salute those women who are fighting peacefully and relentlessly for justice – who want an international judicial accountability mechanism to try senior Sri Lankan military and political leaders for enforced disappearances and mass atrocity crimes including genocide. In fact the mothers of the ‘enforced disappeared’ have written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights not to give additional time for war crimes investigations: https://peoplesdispatch.org/2019/02/26/dont-give-additional-time-to-sri-lanka-mothers-of-disappeared-persons-tell-the-un/ 

“Most of us personally and voluntarily handed-over many of our family members, including children, to the Sri Lankan security forces at the end of the war in May 2009 in reliance on assurances that they would be safe. But almost ten years have passed, but there is no answer from the government about those we surrendered and they all remain disappeared,” they wrote.

I also want to salute all the freedom activists agitating to free their homeland, Tamil Eelam including those seeking a referendum  https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/follow-uks-example-hold-that-referendum-on-independence-in-the-northeast/, conducted by the international community, for the people of the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka including the Diaspora, giving the people a chance to exercise their right to express their political will.

As I salute these great women, I am also seeking the help of women around the world, also politicians, world leaders and members of the civil society to come together in solidarity and agitate not only for the rights of disadvantaged women everywhere but to raise their voices, use their influence and draw attention to the plight of Tamil women in my homeland and help them in their search for Justice. They need your help.

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