In 2013, over half of surveyed Sri Lankan men and women expressed gender-inequitable attitudes equating masculinity with violence, and femininity with obedience to men. Gender-inequitable attitudes have been shown to be linked to gender-based violence (GBV) in multiple contexts.
The goal of this research was to identify points of intervention at which programmes and policies could cultivate gender-equitable attitudes among youth in Sri Lanka, with a goal of reducing GBV in adulthood.
Over 9 months, the lead author interviewed 18 young adults (ages 18-30) in urban Sri Lanka to understand how their experiences influenced their gender identity, as well as their perceptions of gender norms.
Their responses were analysed using a directed content analysis approach to explore which factors have most influenced the processes of gender norm learning, acceptance, or rejection throughout Sri Lankan young adults’ lives.
Themes of Interest:
Single gender schooling reinforces gender-inequitable norms
- Girls are groomed for domestic chores, while boys are taught skills for employment and to excel in science
- Single-gender schools carry prestige and strong alumni networks that for some outweigh the negative gender stereotypes
Femininity and Masculinity are performed very differently in schools:
- Boys are encouraged to play sports and display their physical strength
- Girls are encouraged to read and study but be prepared to put their academic goals on hold after marriage
Schools are lacking strong sexual education and gender curricula:
- Even in schools with curricula, teachers opt out because of discomfort discussing sex
- Students are not prepared to negotiate consensual relationships or to identify gender-based violence
Educational settings in urban Sri Lanka contribute to and reinforce inequitable gender norms among adolescents and young adults. Some points of intervention are:
1. Increasing interaction between single-gender school students of different genders,
2. Challenging gender stereotypes perpetuated by students and alumni
3. Developing and implementing strong sexual education curricula.