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Time to stop selling our mothers - EDITORIAL

26 May 2015 04:31 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In Dambadeniya yesterday, a desperate young father carrying his five-year-old child and a bottle of petrol protested on a tree requesting the Government to bring his wife back from Saudi Arabia, where she had been working as a domestic for the past two and a half years. The man came down from the tree after Foreign Employment Bureau officials promised they would act fast to bring the young mother back.

This incident spotlights the tragedy of more than one million Sri Lankan women, mostly mothers working as virtual domestic slaves in Middle Eastern countries with many of them also undergoing the torture of sexual abuse by men in their households. In addition, we also see the tragedy of thousands of families breaking up because of the long absence of the mother. There is substantial evidence of many cases where teenage girls who look after the fathers of such families end up in a sexual relationship by consent or otherwise. If the family is the nucleus of society with the mother as the centrepiece, then what is happening is a malignant social cancer that needs to be checked and cured before it is too late. 

Just as treating terminal cancer is not easy, so is the task of tackling the degradation of our mothers and the sanctity of motherhood. If this sanctity could be put into statistics, we are told that Sri Lanka earns more than  Rs. 7.5 billion in foreign exchange from the slave labour of the women and mothers doing domestic work for 14 hours a day in some Middle Eastern countries. These suffering women and mothers are our biggest foreign exchange earners. It is a disgrace for our mothers and for Mother Lanka also. 

The new Yahapalanaya Government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has promised that one million new jobs will be created after the general elections in August or early September. We hope this promise will be kept and that most of these jobs will go to the young women or mothers who are often forced to go to Middle Eastern countries because they have no jobs here and their families are enslaved in poverty. So, while the new job opportunities are created, effective steps need to be taken to break the structures of the globalized capitalist market economic policies which are making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The government needs to take effective steps to bring about a more equitable distribution of Sri Lanka’s wealth and resources. As we have often said before, the answer to poverty is not the creation of more wealth because the rich will grab the extra wealth also. The lasting answer is justice.  

In addition to saving our women and mothers from the merchants of slave labour, effective action needs to be taken to save them from gang rapists. Today hundreds of women are expected to take part in a protest outside the Kanatte cemetery in Colombo to seek effective action by the Government to stop the growing number of gang rape cases. On May 13, an 18-year-old schoolgirl was abducted, brutally gang raped and murdered by nine maniacs at Pungudutivu in the island off Kayts. A delay in police action threw Jaffna into turbulence last week when a mob of about 1000 attacked the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court complex where the suspects were produced. 

The National Movement for Social Justice headed by the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayaka Thera and the Daham Pahana Movement’s Kandula group headed by Anton Charles Thomas at a meeting last month asked for immediate steps to stop the big business of sending women and mothers to the Middle East. We hope the Government will respond to this call to restore the image of Sri Lanka’s mothers and Mother Lanka herself.    
 
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