Sri Lanka’s culture of casual sexism


Jul 02, 2021


Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls (Britannica,n.d.). The concept of ‘sexism’ is closely related to gender roles and stereotypes that are deeply rooted in any society. This article looks deeper into the concept of ‘casual sexism’ which is treating a person in a discriminatory manner based on their gender. Casual sexism is a part of every woman’s life, from assigning gendered chores such as asking women to clean the area of a workplace or being passed over for a promotion because the lady in question is pregnant.

Casual sexism can be seen in the society of Sri Lanka because from ancient times Sri Lanka is considered to be having a society with predominant male domination. On a daily basis there are cases where women and girls are pointed out as targets  for casual sexism. According to the Gender Inequality Index introduced by the Human Development Report of 2010, Sri Lanka held the position of 90 out of 162 countries in the world in 2019. When considered analytically this is not a favourable condition as the female population (50.7%) is higher than the male population (49.3%) in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, like in other developing nations, there is a growing interest in enhancing women’s status and eliminating gender inequities to create a more equitable and just society. But this has become a difficult task because of the long-prevailing sexism consisting of gender stereotypes and gender roles limiting the chance for women and girls to perform more significant roles in society. 

The most believed gender stereotype in Sri Lankan society considering women is that they should be at home looking after the household and taking care of the children. Women are not expected to be going into higher ranking occupations and positions in society. The most recent example is the appointment of a female Deputy Instructor General (DIG) for the first time in the history of the Sri Lanka Police. This was criticized by many especially male police officers as not suitable and even went into the path of going into court proceedings. This consequently led to her being removed from the DIG position. Many feminists highlighted this as a prominent example that showed the sexism and the strong gender stereotyping prevailing in Sri Lanka. Although the labour participation rates of females have increased within the years the issue is that they are not given opportunities to go into the higher positions of society. Although women are generally considered to be less in physical strength than men it does not justify them not being given equal occupational opportunities as men.

The usage of marriage as a social institution in Sri Lanka intensifies the patriarchal culture that has been so deeply rooted in the country’s history. Even though women can work while also caring for their children and performing the majority of the housework, they are nonetheless excluded since it is socially unacceptable for them to leave the home. If a woman chooses to engage in an occupation while taking care of the children it is considered taboo and blame is completely put on the woman without any consideration to matters such as her being a single mother or a widower.

The culture of casual sexism is predominant in online media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc. where young girls and also women are being frequent targets of sex offenders. Almost every day an incident of misusing online media platforms are reported. Not only women and girls but young boys and men have become victims of such persons. Although in Sri Lanka the LGBTQ community is not accepted legally, most of the time they become easy targets on online media platforms.

Increasing violence and domestic violence targeting women can also be considered as a result of casual sexism where almost all of the time they are being targeted and are harassed and abused. Although many institutions such as local police offices, the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and many domestic violence intervention institutions are present in Sri Lanka the violence against women and girls is still in the daily reports of the news. The ongoing Covid 19 pandemic has seriously intensified the culture of casual sexism where domestic abuses against women have increased.

It is clear that a culture of casual sexism is prevailing in Sri Lanka and most of the time it is directed against women and girls. As mentioned in the beginning the deeply rooted gender stereotypes and beliefs are constantly standing in between eradicating the culture of casual sexism and therefore all of us as responsible members of Sri Lankan society have the duty of eradicating it together.

About the Author:


Poojanee Galhenege

Currently I’m a third year student reading for BA (Hons) Degree in International Studies at the University of Colombo. I completed my school education at Mahamaya Girls’ College, Kandy. I like to read books during my free time and find interesting facts about the world. I hope to serve in the foreign services after I graduate. I thought of volunteering at IYAP because the experience would be beneficial for me in the future to become an active member of the society and to see the world in a novel way.

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