Violence Against Women – A Buddhist Perspective. Advocacy with Buddhist monks and nuns
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In 2007 Damrivi published and launched a book , Violence Against Women – A Buddhist Perspective in Sinhala and English at the Central Bank Auditorium in Anuradhapura to coincide with the 16 day activism organized by UNFPA to prevent Gender Based Violence ( GBV). This was followed with two functions in Colombo and Asgiriya, Kandy as an Awareness Programme and an appeal to the Maha Sangha to intervene to prevent GBV.
Damrivi Foundation was engaged by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to publish a hand book on the situation of gender based violence in Sri Lanka , its adverse consequences on health and well being of families and communities and how gender issues can be addressed through the Buddhist Philosophy and to seek the intervention of the members of the Maha Sangha to prevent gender based violence.
UNFPA has partnered many faith based organizations in the field of Reproductive Health and gender issues such as maternal health, HIV/AIDS etc. This is the first time UNFPA has collaborated with a Buddhist Organization for this purpose.
The book was authored by Dr. Lakshmen Senanayaka MBBS FRCOG MA, a gynecologist , who at the time of publication of the book was the President of the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Sri Lanka . He is also a specialist in Buddhist Philosophy and holds a Masters Degree in Buddhist Studies offered by the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies , University of Kelaniya.The book was made available to Damrivi in draft format and was finalized edited and published under the title ‘Violence Against Women – A Buddhist Perspective’ and in Sinhala , kanta hinsanaya bodu asin. The book contain a vivid description of various forms of violence against women found in Sri Lanka together with statistics about its occurrences and how these issues can be and have been addressed in Buddhist Philosophy. The book recognizing the role of the Maha Sangha for their leadership and guidance of society in diverse crisis situations throughout the history of the country , whether man made or natural disasters and respectfully appeals to the members of the Maha Sangha to intervene to prevent gender based violence in the country. The book also aims at making the members of the Maha Sangha aware of the seriousness of this problem in Sri Lanka. The Book was translated in to Sinhala language by Mr. Sanath Nanayakkara , the former editor of the Buddhist Encyclopedia. Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne MA, Ph.D , Chairman of Damrivi Foundation, Dr. Lakshmen Senanayake MBBS,FRCOG, MA, author of the Book, , Mr. Sanath Nanayakkara , Mrs.Yuki Sirimane MA,Attorney -at- Law, Solicitor , Director Operations of Damrivi , and Ms Malathi Weerasooriya MSc , Acting Representative of UNFPA in Sri Lanka, served in the editorial committee.
The Book Launch was held on 7th December 2007 from 2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. at the Auditorium of the Central Bank at Anuradhapura . Anuradhapura was selected considering the significantly higher violence rate recorded from this district in the field surveys carried out . The function was presided by Nuwara Kalaviye Pradana Sanghanayaka, the Chief Incumbent of the Swarnamali Maha Chaithya, Most Venerable Pallegama Siri Sumana Rathanasara Hemarathana Thero. The Keynote Address was delivered by Emeritus Professor in Buddhist Philosophy, Prof. P.D. Premasiri Ph.D.
Over hundred monks including distinguished and senior members of the Sangha community from Anuradhapura district participated in the ceremony. The welcome address was delivered by Damrivi trustee and Director General of the Civil security Department , Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara. Addressing the gathering which was over 150 including Buddhist nuns and lay invitees, he stressed the potential for the Maha Sangha to intervene to prevent violence against women. Highlighting their role throughout the history in crisis intervention he respectfully appealed to them to intervene and actively participate to prevent same. Ms Malathi Weerasooriya, the acting representative of UNFPA in Sri Lanka addressed the gathering and presented the objectives of UNFPA in initiating and sponsoring this project .The author Dr. Lakshmen Senanayaka making a presentation explained the background that lead to his writing this book and as a gynecologist working closely with women subject to various forms of violence he explained the true situation in the country with regard to violence against women and its health , social, psychological and other consequences. Prof. Premasiri highlighted the Buddhist philosophical outlook with regard to attitude towards women and stressed that there is no justification in Buddhism for violence against women in any form or degree what so ever. The Keynote speaker and the author of the book were introduced to the gathering by Damrivi trustee and its Director Operations, Mrs Yuki Sirimane and the Vote of Thanks was delivered by Dr. Samadhi Rajapaksa of Cancer hospital , Maharagama. Copies of the book were offer
"Violence against Women -A Buddhist Perspective", the advocacy programme was conducted by Damrivi Foundation at Tissamaharama Rajamaha Viharaya on 6th October 2009. The programme commenced with the registration of the participants, lighting of the traditional oil lamp and observing of 'pan sil' which was administered by Venerable Dr. Devalegama Dhammasena Nayaka Thero .
Approximately 120 participated including 78 monks and nuns 40 laymen and laywomen belonging to various civil societies of the area. Mrs. Yuki Sirimane , Director Operations/Trustee of Damrivi delivering the opening address introduced Damrivi Foundation and its role in society and also the objective of the programme. At the advocacy Dr. Lakshman Senanayaka , Obstetrician and gynaecologist, the author of ‘Violence against women-A Buddhist perspective ‘ the book published by Damrivi , presented the situation report including data and case studies on violence against women in our society.
Prof. Asanga Tilakaratna delivering the key-note address presented the Buddhist perspective of violence against women explaining the dignity, reverence and the value placed on women according to Buddhism and how the Buddha addressed this issue. He stressed that the Buddha recognized the dignity of women based on their ability to achieve spiritual development and not based on physical power. He appealed to the monks to intervene to combat this problem and to address this issue in their sermons.
Venerable Dr. Dewalegama Dhammasena Maha Thera as guest of honour made an appeal to the monks to be more vigilant about incidents of violence and also stressed the importance of addressing the issue on violence against women as monks, nuns and Buddhists. Concluding the programme Mr. Dhammika Wettewe , General Manager of Damrivi delivered the vote of thanks.
All participants were presented with a copy of the book ‘Violence against women- A Buddhist perspective ‘ published by the Damrivi Foundation. A questionnaire about the opinion on the contents of the book and on the programme was distributed among participating monks and nuns as a step towards further research. Ms. Shamila Daluwatte, National Programme Officer of UNFPA, Sri Lanka, represented the UNFPA as sponsors of the programme. There was a large gathering of distinguished guests and citizens from the local area who were very appreciative of the programme.