Title: Private Bodies, Public Space: How Women Navigate Violence in Gendered Spaces in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Author(s): Kinita Shenoy
Final project
Year of publication:
Gender and Public Space
Number of pages:
Supervisors: Randi W. Stebbins
Public Space, Gender Norms, Violence Against Women, Sri Lanka, South Asia


Public space is often an obstacle course of gendered violence for Sri Lanka’s women. Robust socio-economic metrics for women (maternal health, education, etc.), particularly in comparison to its sub-continental neighbours, haven’t translated into gender equality. Women are largely invisible in political representation, dwindling in workforce representation, and conspicuously absent from public space and life. The purpose of this paper is to question the depth of this inequality by asking a few simple questions. Where are Colombo’s women? What structural and interpersonal violence do they face in public space? How does poverty or marginalization exacerbate these issues? To answer these questions, this paper explores the social and cultural construction of gender norms, especially those that require women to stay within the private, reproductive sphere of the home and punishes women that engage with public space for enjoyment or leisure, rather than in service of the capitalist patriarchy. 

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