The North, South, East and Upcountry Women’s Collective organized a series of island-wide protests on March 8 calling for the boycott of the International Women’s Day (IWD).

The Collective including the mothers of victims of rape, murder and sexual violence was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament on March 8 to handover a series of appeals and demands.

The Collective called on the Government to declare violence against girls, women and children, particularly sexual violence and murder, as a national crisis.

We must exert pressure on all levels of the Government to put in place reforms and processes to ensure timely (three years as the maximum duration for a trial to be conducted) justice for women and children facing sexual violence, the Collective noted, adding that special teams must immediately be appointed to handle the cases that are pending in the Attorney General’s Department to bring them to trial.

Sufficient resources must be allocated to State services to strengthen preventative measures to reduce violence against women and children, the Collective observed, adding that a specific demand was for the provision of strong powers and resources to the National Task Force on Violence Against Women established by the Prime Minister’s office on 2015 March 8 for the IWD to drive and oversee this process.

We also call for compliance with a guiding standard of victim centeredness to be required of all judicial, law enforcement and service providing officers (including Judicial Medical Officers) to secure the safety, protection and dignity of women and to ensure equal access to available services, the Collective remarked.

“There is no reason to celebrate the IWD when our women and children are brutally raped and murdered on a day to day basis. We call this month a dark month and will only wear black clothes. These are dark days. In our country violence against women and children, particularly sexual violence has been increasing. This is horrendous. Often times, there is no justice for women and children. Thousands of women, their families and activists who have been fighting for their rights have lost faith and hope waiting for justice. An 18-year-old schoolgirl was raped and murdered in 2015 in Jaffna (Punkudutheevu). In Batticaloa in 2009, a 24-year-old woman was raped and murdered. Her mother is still going to the court and asking for justice. In Hatton (2015 April) a five-year-old girl was raped. In Puttalam (2016 January) a 26-year-old woman faced attempted rape. In Gampaha (2016 February) an 18-year-old woman was raped. In Gampola (2016 February) a mother of a seven months old child, was raped by 10 men. In Vavuniya (2016 February) a 14-year-old girl was raped and murdered. Likewise all over the country and daily, women and children are facing sexual violence. We are not accepting this in our communities anymore. We will not allow our men to be perpetrators of violence against women and children,” the Collective explained.