Project Abstract (2017)

In 1960 Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, making her the first female Head of State in the world. Such a victory for women’s rights, paired with Sri Lanka’s traditionally matriarchal society, implies that gender equality has already been achieved in the country. However, many Sri Lankan women currently face gender-based violence and discrimination, characteristics commonly associated with patriarchal society. In order to understand the shift from matriarchy to patriarchy, it is imperative to determine the origin of patriarchal values in Sri Lanka. Britain, a traditionally patriarchal society, colonized Sri Lanka in 1815 and maintained control until 1948. Thus, the purpose of this research is to assess the current relationship between matriarchy and patriarchy in Sri Lanka by examining the aftermath of British colonization. In order to assess gender power structures on a country-wide level, this research analyzed country reports from leading international bodies to extract large trends in the treatment of women. To garner further insight, this project uniquely employed phenomenological interviews of women who held various positions within Sri Lankan society. Analyses of data provide insight into how British colonialism shaped the lives of women. Highly respected historians, such as Joan Wallach Scott, assert that “By piling up the evidence about women in the past it refutes the claim that women had no history.” By understanding how Sri Lankan social standards evolved, it becomes easier to spark changes that allow women to obtain fundamental rights.

Colonial Corruption: An Analysis of the Impact of British Patriachal Values on Sri Lanka's Matriarchal Society