This Is Not A Women’s Rights Issue, It’s A Human Rights Issue

Hey guys! Been a while but here’s an update on what’s been going on at the RO headquarters.

Right now we’re collaborating with the awesome people of Beyond Borders to work on the project we’ve talked so much about in the past (Social Oppression on Women in Sri Lanka).

More than the physical and literal aspects of gender oppression on women, we’ve decided to use our 2011 project to question the cultural and social norms we take for granted – to question the mindset of our society. In a panel discussion today at the American Center, Reach Out members met with other NGO members and activists like Women In Need to discuss domestic violence; even at the root of physical violence, is a social attitude – traditional accepted roles where oppressive men feel women can be pushed around, and the women oppressed by them sadly begin to believe the same, because the society around them is apathetic about it.

The silent observers of injustice are just as guilty as the doers of injustice themselves.

If a woman is slapped in the face by her husband, who seems like a friendly sane man to outsiders, it doesn’t come as a surprise to hear someone saying ‘oh she must have done something to deserve it.’

If a woman is walking to work and a couple of boys follow her, calling her derogatory names and trying to grab her, although the story will elicit sympathy from a lot of listeners, there’s definitely some who will say ‘oh but what was she wearing?’

As we’ve highlighted before, there is a complacency and acceptance of the harassment of women under the notion that ‘eh, it’s just the way things are, nothing to be done about it,’ inside a patriarchal framework where it’s implied that ‘under the right circumstances’ it’s okay to harass or oppress women. Often there are women themselves who tend to reinforce this mindset.

But how can you get about actually realistically changing social norms? Traditional ways that are almost inset as part of our culture?

We think it may be possible through the youth. Though the older generations may be too much a part of a system in which women are often seen as easy targets of oppression who will not fight back – the mindsets of young people are yet to be fully formed. We plan on using our 2011 documentation project on the subject, to get through to young people, make an impression on their minds, and hopefully change the way they behave as they grow into adults – break the pattern.

This is not merely a feminist cause, not just women making a ruckus about the rights of women being violated – it’s a human rights cause; it’s about human beings realizing that the rights of other human beings are being violated, and recognizing that the action of the people of a society, both men and women, is needed to end oppression.

We know that a lot of you out there support our work, thank you for that, but we really want to hear your feedback, so email us at reachout.lk@live.com or call us on 0773786505 and tell us what you think.

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