Coping with COVID19 – Gendered Impact and Language Rights

Sri Lanka recognizes language rights as a fundamental right of all women and men, but women and men in Sri Lanka have diverse experiences in the realization of their language rights impacted by ethnicity as well as social, cultural, and economic standing. Disaster situations, such as what we are facing now with COVID-19, compound the situation further.

The distinction between women and men in realizing their language rights creates unequal situations in terms of participation in policy making, policy and program implementation, service delivery, and access to services and benefits. These inequalities often discriminate against women, jeopardizing women’s full participation in and access to all spheres where working and interacting in the language of one’s choice is a key factor.

There are limited concrete examples to give meaning to gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE) in the context of language rights and a plethora of questions are unanswered. But, we do know that education and training, economic activity and benefits (including access to employment and independent income), health care and nutrition, issues related to family services (including property, inheritance and marriage), protection from social discrimination as well as protection from gender-based violence are impacted. They may be more complex now, given the pandemic situation we are in.

These discriminatory distinctions arise primarily due to the lack of understanding of and focus on the need to mainstream gender equality and women’s empowerment in promoting language rights which stems from gender insensitive policy making, trickling down to gender neutral programs and service delivery.

Social media and other traditional media, both local and international,  have reported that domestic violence incidents have increased during curfew times. The following articles provide useful insights on the Gendered Impact of coping with COVID 19.

  • Unsafe Homes : Sri Lanka’s Covid 19 Response must address violence against Women and Children

  • COVID 19 Violence Against Women and Girls

  • COVID19 and ending violence against Women and Girls

  • Gender Equality in COVID19 Response

  • Justice for Women amidst COVID 19


These reports reveal many women have had to obtain medical services for injuries due to domestic violence. In such incidents:

  • Do you think there is a nexus between GEWE, language rights and disasters?
  • What do you think could be done to make the situation better?


In response to the impact of the crisis, the following local institutions

have been providing 24 hour assistance in Sinhala, Tamil and English

to anyone facing any type of abuse or violence at home during curfew:

Women in Need Hotline ☎️ 011 4718585 | 077 5676 555 

Jaffna 770822444

Matara 774992555

Colombo 775646555

Legal 768686555

Police Child & Women Bureau  ☎️ 0112 444 444




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