Only Until the Rice is Cooked? The Domestic Violence Act, Familial Ideology and Cultural Narratives in Sri Lanka

only until rice This paper maps contemporary discourses on domestic violence in Sri Lanka, especially in connection with the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 2005 (PDVA). The negotiation of the PDVA was a site of struggle where differing discourses on domestic violence were in competition with each other, vying for the status of truth. While the final Act privileged a Politico-Bureaucratic understanding of violence rather than a feminist one, it is nevertheless a significant departure from the status quo on familial violence. More than six years after the enactment, the act is a remedy of last resort for women victim-survivors of domestic violence. Yet the official discourse on domestic violence still perceives it as a threat to the existing social order, echoing the resistance to its passage in parliament. Arguing that this discourse is marked not so much by a denial of the prevalence of domestic violence but by the tendency to normalise and legitimise it, the paper explore how familial ideology, cultural narratives and ‘common sense’ are being deployed to this end. Yet the emergence of this discourse signals the co-existence of ‘competing possibles’ and the PDVA continues to be an important discursive space for speaking about domestic violence in Sri Lanka which is crucial to strengthening the voices of victim-survivors and women’s rights advocacy.

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The ICES Working Paper Series presents on going research at ICES for discussion and debate. This working paper forms part of a broader research programme on Feminist Responses to Domestic Violence in Sri Lanka, including a mapping of domestic violence intervention services undertaken by ICES between 2009 -2011.

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