Gender has been an important thematic strand of the SSA’s research agenda for many years. The SSA has contributed significantly to the production of knowledge on issues of gender in Sri Lanka and South Asia. It has partnered with a number of local and research networks over the years in its exploration of themes of gender, violence against women, patriarchy and masculinity.
The SSA has also organized two international conferences relating to gender. The first conference was held in 1992 and titled “Women: The State, Fundamentalism and Cultural Identity in South Asia”. The papers presented at this conference were published as a book titled Embodied Violence: Communalising Women’s Sexuality in South Asia (edited by Kumari Jayawardena and Malathi De Alwis) by Kali for Women in 1996. SSA together with the Women in Conflict Zones Network in 1998 organized the international conference on “Women in Conflict Zones” on Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia. The papers presented at this conference were published under the title Feminists Under Fire: Exchanges Across War Zones (edited by Wenona Giles, Malathi de Alwis, Edith Klein and Neluka Silva) in 2003.
SSA has also published a number of key books related to issues of gender in Sri Lanka including Kumari Jayawardena’s Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World, Neloufer De Mel’s Women and the Nation’s Narration, Cat's Eye: A Feminist Gaze on Current Issues edited by Malathi De Alwis and Kanchana Ruwanpura’s Matrilineal Communities, Patriarchal Realities: A Feminist Nirvana Uncovered. Apart from this SSA has published and continues to publish articles and pamphlets related to themes of gender. Its work on gender has also extended beyond academia into activism and advocacy on policy issues related to gender including advocacy with various political parties and trade unions for increased representation of women in decision making processes.
The SSA’s current research work on gender focuses on issues relating to the exclusion of women from politics and the effect of this gender deficit on women in Sri Lanka. The research team working on these issues include Dr. Kumari Jayawardena, Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda, Mr. Pradeep Peiris and Ms. Buddhima Padmasiri