Our Silence can lead to another’s victimization.
In the last week, we have seen a number of women come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. The emergence of the #metoo movement in Sri Lanka, is giving us an opportunity to revisit and reflect on the massive disparity between genders, of the socio-cultural tolerance of sexual harassment and also the influence of power in maintaining silence.
We want to acknowledge the many women who mustered the courage to speak up; those who shared their stories with their friends, family, colleagues and superiors; those who could not or did not say anything when it happened, but who found the strength to share this now. These stories are still valid and important.
Whilst acknowledging the many women who found their voice, we know there are thousands of women, from all over Sri Lanka, across many sectors, who won’t be sharing their #metoo stories. For whom there are absolutely no spaces, even remotely safe, to speak of their trauma and fears. Women who are silenced by the culture of victim shaming and blaming, re-victimization, intimidation and fear and who cannot access platforms where they can speak out. It is important to note that the absence of proper legal mechanisms to obtain justice such as laws on workplace sexual harassment, and the lack of trust in the system, also contributes to the silence.
We need to work on building safe environments in which there will be no room for #metoo incidents. We should be creating spaces that enable women to speak freely, without fear. This does not end with law; it requires a wider understanding among people on how gender discrimination and power relations are deeply connected.
Whilst we stand in solidarity with the women who have spoken out we are also conscious of how these revelations impact so many. As these women share their stories, we should also be conscious of both the silence of the industries, and the noise from the media attention that the women may receive (that they may not be prepared for), and continue to find ways to support them through all of it.
As PWC, we believe that justice needs to be served. At the same time, we understand that healing, of which speaking out may be an important first step for some, is just as necessary a process. We would also like to share our ultimate conviction in the resilience, potential for learning, growth and transformation in each one of us. This is the hope that will see us through.