08/04/2018, 10.08
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Women disabled because of the civil war demand Colombo recognize their rights

by Melani Manel Perera

About 8.7% of the population is disabled on the island; 57% are women. A document describes the violence suffered by women during the conflict. So far there has been no cause-effect study between the development of disability and civil war.


Colombo (AsiaNews) - Recognize our rights and the dignity of women. This is the appeal of dozens of Sri Lankan women  disabled by the civil war that bloodied the island for about 30 years. Their testimony was collected in a report presented to the public on July 24th in Colombo. 

President of the Association of Women with Disabilities (Akasa), Kamalawathi Narayanagedara, who was disabled because of polio, told AsiaNews: "We want to have a real recognition from society and the government because we are human beings like everyone else. I am very sorry for the women made disabled by the civil war (1983-2009), we should give them more attention ".

In Sri Lanka the numbers of people with physical and mental disabilities are very high: according to the 2012 census, at least 8.7% of the population is disabled; of this, 57% are women. The research carried out on the condition of the latter is called "Out of the Shadows: War-affected Women with Disabilities in Sri Lanka" and is done by the Law and Society Trust (Lst) and Western Sydney University. Three versions have been drawn up: in English, Sinhala and Braille, to allow reading also for the blind.

The report describes the violence suffered by women during the conflict in the provinces and border villages to the north and east of the country, where the Tamil Tigers guerrilla targeted especially women of Islamic faith. Because of those atrocities, many have been disabled with movement, sight and hearing problems. The study also finds that that women are the majority of disabled people in the districts of Kandy, Trincomalee and Puttalam, those where the fighting between the regular army and Tamil rebels has been more tightly controlled.

The study also highlights a serious shortcoming: the fact that there has never been a similar research linking disability to war. Recognizing that link of cause and effect, say the experts, would greatly contribute to the process of national reconciliation. On the contrary, we read in the text, "the National policy for reconciliation has never considered the condition of disabled women in the post-war scenario and also the government's attention has been inconsistent and inadequate". The report also stresses the difficulty of women in obtaining justice and access to the legal system, not only for the defense of their rights, but also from the point of view of architectural barriers that prevent wheelchair movements.

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