ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Replacing Silence with Speech

Wartime Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka

The Search for Justice: The Sri Lanka Papers edited by Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena and Kumari Jayawardena, Delhi: Zubaan, 2016; pp 434, ₹ 850.


We live in a time when sexual violence has come to occupy front page news and is being discussed in all domains of life, from academia, media, and politics to the film industry. Yet, some forms of sexual violence remain unspeakable. The edited volume, The Search for Justice: The Sri Lanka Papers is a work that compels us to rethink the idea of sexual violence, speakable and unspeakable, and make visible those dark corners that only get the spotlight when grotesque and mass violence takes place in what has habitually come to be called conflict areas. This book is one in a series of eight on sexual violence and impunity in South Asia published by Zubaan, Delhi. It takes stock of post-war Sri Lanka and the state’s failure to redress and heal the wounds of survivors of wartime brutal violence.

The shared yet differing emphasis of each volume produced through the combined initiative suggests taking into account different types of violence that have come to be gathered under the broad umbrella of sexual violence. The volume suggests that sexual violence has to be understood not only as a continuum of violence in its banality and routine violations that women and non-normative gendered persons undergo on a daily basis; we need to declutter and revisit the concept to be able to take into account the specificity of the violence enabled by cultures of impunity and militarisation. The silence and invisibility due to the normalisation of many instances of daily rapes and sexual violence makes the task of seeking justice not just that of reforming, but also that of transforming the social and cultural fabric of our societies.

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Updated On : 18th Mar, 2019
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