I’m at the Sri Lanka Unites press conference / awards show. This is for S.H.O.W. You Care, where young people boarded buses to educate against sexual harassment. They reached more than 30,000 people on 1,000 buses over 5 days. This is a major problem and I think addressing these immediate issues makes a bigger difference than, say, calling for the execution of rapists.
This initiative was by Sri Lanka Unites, a youth reconciliation movement which was more associated with post-war peace-building. So why are the fighting sexual harassment in Colombo, and next Kandy? I think it’s because reconciliation and a better Sri Lanka means more than better racial relations, especially to young people.
Sri Lanka is a diverse country with diverse problems, ranging from ethnic inequality to gender inequality to income inequality. A better Sri Lanka and reconciliation depends on more than one issue, so in that sense it does make sense that a reconciliation organization is working on gender issues.
This is also a pressing issue of especial relevance as Sri Lankans are more generally getting freaked out about rape and child abuse and grease yakas and all the problems and fears that the war obscured.
Presser is over and I spoke with Harith De Mel of SLU. This is a paraphrase and please treat as hearsay:
“Law is all right, problem is the procedure. Law has to be slightly aggresive. Treat it like a general crime you can never prosecute the harrasser. Social policing is what you need. We can have certain procedural changes from the law side. On the policy side, can amalgamate National Transport Commission with Womens Commission. Make a system to make sure that the harassment is reported by the buses.
National Transport Commission has done a lot. National Womens Commission has a hotline. At least they shold be reported and stats should be out in public.”
On that note, it would be cool if there were smartphones or tabs in the buses that A) tracked where they were and B) allowed people/conductors to report abuse or other stuff. Or had live cams running sometimes. I dunno. It’s a start to get up and say something, but like reconciliation, it’s a long term thing. I think the next stop for these guys is Kandy.