Domestic Violence again Women in Sri Lanka: The Role of Primary Health Care in Complementing Human Rights and Legal Responses Academic Article uri icon


  • Using an analysis of primary documents and secondary sources, the problem of domestic violence against women in Sri Lanka is surveyed from the perspectives of public health, as well as human and legal rights. The limited Sri Lankan literature on the measurements, context and prevalence of such violence, as well as legislation for its prevention, is reviewed. Responses to the problem by the government and non-government organisations are described. These include using international organisations, forums and conventions to further the human rights dimensions of the problem, the establishment of support services and domestic legal reforms to accord greater protection to women. While The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act 2005 gave legislative recognition to the problem and put into place some welcome reforms, it lacked a comprehensive response to the problem. It is argued that health service providers need to be trained to be aware of domestic violence as the potential cause of physical injuries and mental conditions and that the medical record should document the circumstances and nature of domestic violence. Hospital outpatient departments should offer counselling, referrals to crisis centres and shelters, and should collect sex disaggregated data on domestic assaults. Finally, primary health care workers can both support women in dealing with domestic violence as well as performing a sentinel role in prevention. Specific and comprehensive public policy on violence against women must be developed to allow the health sector to play its role within a context of inter-sectoral collaboration.

publication date

  • 2007