Legal Outreach for Women in Sri Lanka: Sisters at Law

Marini de Livera founder of Sisters at Law, built the organization with her experience as an attorney-at-law and human rights activist. She is also a former chairperson of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) in Sri Lanka.

Sisters at Law is a charitable organization that focuses on women’s and human rights in Sri Lanka. They support survivors of domestic and institutional violence and help women, families and children in need.

“We help women and children by appearing for them in court, giving them legal advice and preparing documents. We also create awarenesses about the laws in Sri Lanka.”

Marini leads a fierce fight against child abuse and for women’s rights in Sri Lanka. Her efforts are however, recognized by the international community which earned her the prestigious International Women of Courage Award in 2019.

“This was the most memorable moment for me because this is a thankless job. Being a volunteer and an activist is rarely appreciated in a county such as this. It was wonderful to receive recognition along with nine other women from different countries.

Domestic Violence

Violence against women has been accepted for centuries in Sri Lanka. It was the norm that women shouldn’t speak up and ask for help. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act was used to mitigate this issue.

The organization provides legal aid and safe shelters for survivors of various forms of violence and abuse. Moreover, they run educational activities and livelihood support projects.

Marini states that violence against women rose during Covid-19.

“The victims were unable to contact anyone outside of their homes specially during curfew. The courts weren’t operating as they were under lockdown and didn’t take new cases. Women couldn’t complain to authorities (Police) as they were reluctant to give them priority.”

Moreover, there is a huge mental impact on these women.

“We lack sufficient counselors who are willing to work pro bono to carry out therapy sessions. Women and children living below the poverty line don’t have access to free counseling. Either the government should provide it or there should be volunteerism.”

Workplace Harassment

“Workplace harassment is also a huge problem in Sri Lanka. There are women suffering in silence from sexual harassment and other forms of violence at their workplace. However, there are no mechanisms within the organization to address these issues.”

“Although it is a serious human rights violation, women have no one to turn to and they can not easily leave as they need to work for a living.”

“The private sector should come in and establish Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies within their organization and set up Anti-Harassment Committees.”

Marini states that combating violence against women is not something organizations such as theirs can do alone.

“Business organizations, the government, youth groups, and other parties need to network with us to make the human rights of these women and children who suffer gender injustice, a reality.”

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