The report was commissioned by Minor Matters, a national campaign, and authored by the Peace and Women’s rights activist Shreen Abdul Saroor. In order to clearly define ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief’ Shreen has closely associated and drawn examples from the Muslim community in the country
The launch of the report ‘Waging War on Women’s Bodies: Gendered Dimensions of Freedom of Religion or Belief
(FoRB) in Sri Lanka’ was held on November 8 at International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) auditorium in Colombo. The report was commissioned by Minor Matters, a national campaign, and authored by the Peace and Women’s rights activist Shreen Abdul Saroor. In order to clearly define ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief’ Shreen has closely associated and drawn examples from the Muslim community in the country. She has her own strong and independent views of the most recent attack in Sri Lankan history which is the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019.
With reference to the Easter Sunday carnage the author of the report has paid her attention to how Muslim women were questioned unnecessarily largely due to their traditional attire.
According to this report it is quite obvious that minor communities belonging to Sri Lanka’s multi-cultured society faced certain challenges regarding continuing to wear their traditional attire because of certain security measures taken as a result of the Easter Sunday bombings.
Shreen Abdul Saroor
The author has at one point highlighted in the report that it was easier for the state to target the entire Muslim community rather than bring justice to the victims or do a review of its own security lapses.
Readers browsing through this report can observe that the author has strengthened her cause through the research she herself has done by closely associating with victims.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states “We all have the right to our own beliefs, to have a religion, have no religion, or to change it”
The UN Human Rights Committee has emphasised on the fact that domestic laws must not punish criticism of religious leaders or prevent commentaries on religious doctrines and tenets of faith.
The report by Shreen also underscores how some Comedians and YouTubers got arrested due to the commentaries they made by drawing examples from the religions in the country.
“Comedian Natasha Edirisooriya and YouTuber Bruno Divakara were arrested within a week and remanded under section 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Early this year another social media influencer Sepal Amarasinghe was arrested for the same reason. Evangelical Christian preacher Pastor Jerome Fernando has drawn controversy over comments he made in his sermons and is currently absconding overseas, evading possible arrest,” the report states.
According to the report it is quite obvious that all these individuals have one issue in common.
“They have been accused of inciting violence by insulting Buddhism. Sri Lanka has set a trend in abusing the ICCPR under the pretext of ‘guarding Buddhism’ which is the religion of the majority of the country’s population and is enshrined as the foremost religion in the country’s constitution.
This report has been complied during such a period of time where the Freedom of Religion or Belief got stained with a chain of incidents in taking place in the country. She also adds in the report the following: “this paper will analyse the gendered nature of religious violence and restrictions on the freedom of religion or belief, with a particular focus on the treatment of Muslim women”,
The author has added in the report many of her conclusions and recommendations.
“Legislation must be drafted in a manner that accounts for and minimizes the 24 possibility of discriminatory treatment. Gender-based impacts of proposed laws must be taken into special account”, reads one among many conclusions in the report.