Following recent reports that many women working for several NGO`s and INGO`s an the post tsunami reconstruction and rehabilitation in Amparai and Batticaloa have been intimacyually abused and they were forced to pose nude for photographs, some front organisations of the LTTE issued threatening leaflets ordering these women to quit their jobs. However there were no concrete findings on these reports. Meanwhile the Women`s Coalition for Disaster Management Batticaloa Secretariat consisting of 28 NGOs and INGO`s and on behalf of them their coordinator Sarala Emmanual has issued a statement concerning the entire issue.
The statement entitled Let`s Protect Women`s Right to Work! Let`s end Violence Against Women states as follows:
Over the past few weeks there have been a number of leaflets and rumours containing allegations and making threats against women working in NGOs in Batticaloa and Ampara districts. These allegations have focused on issues of intimacyual exploitation of women, and have called for women to be stopped from working in NGOs and `also in private businesses.
As members of organizations concerned with promoting the equality of women in society, we are pleased that MPs of Batticaloa have publicly denounced these leaflets aimed at denying women the right to work, a right which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Women play a vital role in the field of social development, and are often those who work directly with communities and families. Blanket allegations and rumours against ALL women working in NGOs have unfairly damaged the reputations of these women and their families. It has also given an opening to opportunistic persons to threaten and harass women workers in their communities and during their work. This has caused great anxiety and difficulties for women workers and their families.
We call on all organizations ? government, non-governmental and private ? to ensure harassment - does not take place at the work place, to create work environments that deter violence against women, and to put in place mechanisms for anyone facing harassment to be able to come forward in confidentiality and have their complaints dealt with satisfactorily. We cannot protect women from violence or exploitation by locking them away from society.
The issue of intimacyual exploitation of women is a serious matter, and individual cases must be systematically investigated and justice must besought for the women concerned. Perpetrators of exploitation must- be penalized not women. Any process of obtaining justice for these women must be sensitive to their individual needs and circumstances and should avoid causing them further suffering. Women who have suffered exploitation should be assured of full support by their employers, the community and the legal authorities if they wish to come forward.
All community members have a role to play in supporting the rights of women to work whether in NGOs, within hospitals, within schools or within private enterprises. Community members should not attribute stereotypes or rumours uncritically to all the thousands of women who work in the social service sector to do so is to further victimize women.
We call on all members of society ? members of public (men and women), civil society actors, intellectuals, religious leaders and the media ? who believe in the rights of people to take an active role in ending all forms of violence against women and in supporting women`s right to work.