03/13/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Women from every ethnic group together to demand an end to the war

by Melani Manel Perera
Twenty-six organisations come together to slam the harm the civil war has had on women’s lives. More than 50,000 widows, both Tamil and Sinhala, are without protection and work, victims of sexual abuse.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – They are Buddhist, Muslim and Christian, Tamil and Sinhalese, war widows and mothers of boys who disappeared, recruited perhaps by separatist guerrillas; they have all been subjected to violence and discrimination; they are the women of Sri Lanka and have been among the first victims of the civil war that in more than 20 years has killed more than 70,000 people. Twenty-six local women’s rights organisations have come together to condemn the effects of the violence caused by Tamil Tiger rebels and the government’s army, urging the parties to find a solution.

“Politics in our country depends on war,” said Nimalka Fernando, a lawyer and co-ordinator of Mothers and Daughters, a women’s group.

“The government’s budget entails huge spending on weapons when instead we need development and people are dying of hunger.”

The war has created 48,000 Tamil widows and 10 to 15,000 Sinhalese widows who lost their military husbands.

The women activists complain that these women now confront sexual abuse, are without protection and displaced, and must face a rising cost of living. Many have lost sons, officially “missing” but very likely turned into child soldiers at the service of the Tamil Tigers.

Harm is not only psychological and social, but also economic.

“We have lost our farming economy because of globalisation and the war is depriving us of everything else. We live in fear. We want a country at peace,” said Nanda Marasingha, a Buddhist and a member of ‘Rural Women’s Front’.

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