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Eliminating Sexual and Gender Based Violence

Responsibility of the State in Prevention and Response of SGBV

Introduction
The State has the primary responsibility to prevent and respond to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). This includes taking all necessary legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent, investigate and punish acts of SGBV and provide adequate care, treatment and support to victims/survivors. The intervention of the state and social actors, in principally, on combating SGBV is, identification, prevention, reduction of all form of SGBV and protection of victims.

The article 12(2) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka opposes to against any discriminative actions based on the sex and it further states that the State is able to take legislative or administrative actions for the advancement of women and children . Constitutionally, the gender equality has been preserved and remedies are assured when those principles are violated. Besides, the directive principles of the State policy guide the Parliament, the President, and the Cabinet of Ministers for the establishment of a just and free society where protecting and securing the social order and rights of the people .

Definitions; Sexual and Gender Based Violence
The term sexual and gender-based violence is used to mean sexual violence and gender-based violence. However, most forms of sexual violence can also be committed under gender-based violence as long as the survivor was targeted because of his or her gender.

Gender-based violence
is physical, mental or social violence and abuse (including sexual violence) that includes acts (attempted or threatened) carried out with or without force and without the consent of the victim. The violence is directed against a person because of her or his gender. It is ‘an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will, and that is based on socially ascribed differences between males and females’.

Sexual and Gender Based Violence
is defined as “ …any act that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women because of being women and men because of being men, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life .

a. SGBV includes: rape/attempted rape, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation

b. SGBV is “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic a person’s sexuality, using coercion, threats of harm or physical force, by any person regardless of relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.”

c. SGBV takes many forms, including rape, sexual slavery and/or trafficking, forced pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and/or abuse, and forced abortion.

SGBV can have serious long-term and life-threatening consequences for victims/survivors. These can range from permanent disability or death to a variety of physical, psychosocial and health-related problems that often destroy the survivor’s self-worth and quality of life, and expose him/her to further abuse.

SGBV is usually perpetrated by persons who hold a position of power or who control others, whether in the private or public sphere. In most cases, those responsible are known to the victim/survivor, such as intimate partners, members of the (extended) family, friends, teachers or community leaders.

Legal framework for prevention and response
International human rights law prohibits all forms of violence and discrimination, including SGBV. Any form of SGBV constitutes a serious violation of human rights. Depending on the act in question, it may violate a number of rights, such as the following: the right to dignity and physical, mental and moral integrity; the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to liberty and security of person, and to freedom from slavery; the right to life; and the right to non-discrimination, equality and to equal protection of the law. In addition to that many acts of SGBV are prohibited under the Geneva Conventions and International Criminal Law.

At domestic level, Sri Lanka has enacted several national laws and procedures in order to criminalize many acts of SGBV. 1995 and 1998 Amendments to the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code of Sri Lanka are optimistic developments in this field. Additionally, enacting the Act of Prevention of Domestic Violence in 2005 is further development of this subject.

Mechanisms for combating SGBV
The Ministry of Child Development and Women Affairs hold the responsibilities to ensure the protection of women and children from violence, abuse and exploitation by formulating policies, laws, regulations, and guidelines for programme development and for coordinating the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of such programmes . The Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka that carry the objective of “safeguarding the Right of Women to protect them from Gender Based Violence” and the National Committee on Women that carry the objective of “the effective implementation of the prevention of Domestic Violence Act” comes under the preview of the Ministry.

Several institutions and officials have been established in order to prevent and response to SGBV. Children and Women Bureau of Sri Lanka Police and C & W desks of every Police station in island wide, National Child Protection Authority, Department of Probation and Child Care, Director of Health / Judicial Medical Officer/ and Psychiatric of the Base Hospital, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and as individual officials, Child Rights Promotional Officers, and Women Development Officers are doing plenty of activities for the prevention and response of SGBV. However, one of the barriers to effective prevention and response is the inability of those institutions to work in coordinated manner.

There are several coordinated mechanisms, though not state recognized or institutionalized, operate at district level, for the prevention and response of SGBV. Jaffna GBV Working Group, Vauniya SGBV Forum, Mannar SGBV Network Panel, Trincomalee District Gender Network, Batticaloa Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Forum Against Gender Based Violence – Puttalam District and District Committee against SGBV in Kilinochchi are examples for these coordinated bodies.


1. Article 12(4) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka
2. Article 27 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka
3. ibid 3
4. Article 1 and 2 of the United Nations General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993)
5. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, Trafficking in persons, especially women and children Protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
6. Objective 3, Ministry of Child Development and Women Affairs
7. http://www.childwomenmin.gov.lk/web/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=37&lang=en
8. ibid 8