Through this programme Suriya is focusing on justice and accountability for women and girls who have experienced violence and other rights violations. We also working on using legal mechanisms as well as social justice and accountability mechanisms for violence against women and girls. We work with individual women on their journey to claim justice as well as work at the structural level to improve the legal process itself. The specific components includes empowerment of individual victims, group processes for psychosocial support, building consciousness that their experiences are part of a larger women’s gendered experience and building collective solidarity and sisterhood. It also includes research and monitoring of legal processes, actively lobbying with lawyers at the district and national level, pressuring the AG’s department to reform their processes, working closely with the national bodies and strengthening networks among women’s organizations at the district and national level.
Suriya also focusing on changing social norms and cultural practices that discriminate against women, including ethnic identity politics and focus on improving services and structures existing to respond to violence against women.
Suriya has been working to eliminate violence against women in Batticaloa since 2000. We have responded to more than 4500 cases over the past 16 years and see on average 23 women monthly who come to our office seeking emergency support or legal aid/counseling. We encourage and empower women who have experienced violence to take steps to come out of that situation.
We provide free Legal Advice and Legal Representation in the Batticaloa, Kaluwanchikudy courts with the supports of three women lawyers and one senior male lawyer. We also provide advice on entitlements and services available through other state bodies such as the Human Rights Commission and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.
This support includes emergencies around missing individuals, land rights, migrant workers rights, child birth registration, abandonment/separation by husband, maintenance amounts, child abuse, child sexual abuse, child sexual harassment, violence against women, sexual abuse of women, and cheating.
Referrals are made to other NGOs, Police, State Probation and Child Care Services, crisis centres, human rights organisations and other government bodies, when necessary.
Our trained staff also provide psycho-social counseling support to women and their families, referrals, and emergency support for women and girls who have faced crises.
Suriya aims to provide better and more sensitive services for the needs of girls and boys around the issues of sexuality of young people, sexual violence and teenage pregnancies. We support preventative strategies in working towards a significant reduction of violence against women and girls.
The most common cases of women who arrive at our doorstep have been related to domestic violence. When women arrive at Suriya they have already faced long term and severe violence by their husbands. We inform them of the Prevention of Domestic Violence (DV) Act and filing for protection orders. However the use of such legislation has been slow.
We aim to improve the legal processes and support services for women who have experienced violence – through evidence based research, forming local level lawyer groups, working closely with selected Women and Children’s Police Desks, providing training for government officers, and supporting district level Gender Based Violence (GBV) networks.
The delays and discrimination women face through the legal system poses a great challenge. Evidence based research on the actual process of accessing legal remedies is ongoing for national level advocacy.