Language Rights for Women’s Rights

A conversation on how Language Rights Impact Women’s Rights

Sri Lanka recognizes the right to language as a fundamental right of all women and men but do women and men in Sri Lanka have diverse experiences in the realization of their language rights?

NLEAP conducted a webinar “Language Rights for Women’s Rights” on the 18th of March to mark International Women’s Day. Moderated by NLEAP Gender Specialist Ms. Saama Rajakaruna, the conversation focused on how Language Rights impact Women’s Rights. The session commenced with panelist Mr. M. Thirunavukarasu (Deputy Director, National Languages Equality Advancement Project) giving an in-depth overview of Language Rights in Sri Lanka, explaining what is meant by Language rights and the constitutional framework underpinning Language Rights in Sri Lanka.  Which was then followed by Dr. Ramani Jayasundere (Director, Justice and Gender Programs, TheAsia Foundation) shedding light on the nexus between Women’s Rights and Language Rights. For as Saama quite succinctly stated ‘People understand what language rights are and they understand what women’s rights are. But, quite often, people find it difficult to see the nexus between language rights and women’s rights.’ Dr. Ramani, illustrated how 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 and service delivery, and access to services and benefits. The practical examp

les shared by Mr. A. Subakaran (Executive Director, Centre for Governance Innovations) further demonstrated how language rights affect women’s rights in service delivery at the subnational level.

The first of many such webinars that NLEAP hopes to conduct in the future, this conversation was attended by more than 30 participants. The quick overviews of the conversation provided in Sinhala and Tamil by Dr. Ramani and Mr. Subakaran was highly appreciated by participants more conversant in our National Languages.