Sexuality and Women’s Rights in Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka

Citation:

Tambiah, Yasmin. 2004. “Sexuality and Women’s Rights in Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka.” Reproductive Health Matters 12 (23): 78–87. doi:10.1016/S0968-8080(04)23121-4.

Author: Yasmin Tambiah

Abstract:

The discourse of human rights in armed conflict situations is well adapted to respond to violence and violation, invoking internationally agreed principles of civil and political rights. However, in areas where the subject or domain of rights discourse is contested or controversial, human rights advocates appear less prepared to promote and defend such rights. Sexuality is one such domain. This paper explores the complex sexual choices women in Sri Lanka have had to negotiate, particularly widows and sex workers, within a context of ethnic conflict, militarisation and war. It argues that sexuality cannot be defined exclusively in terms of violation, even in a context dominated by violence, and that the sexual ordering of society may be subverted in such conditions. Newly widowed women and sex workers have had to negotiate self-determination as well as take responsibility for earning income and heading households, in spite of contrary community pressures. For women, political and economic rights are closely linked with the ability to determine their sexual and reproductive choices. The challenge to women’s and human rights advocates is how to articulate sexual autonomy as a necessary right on a par with others, and strategise to secure this right during armed conflict and postwar reconstruction.

Keywords: sexual rights, human rights, armed conflict, sex workers, widowhood, Sri Lanka

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Gender, Women, Livelihoods, Sexual livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Sexuality Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2004

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