Breaking Barriers: Launch of the National Guidelines for SGBV Victim-Survivors

Revolutionizing Access to Justice in Partnership with the Government of Canada

April 3, 2024


3 April 2024, Colombo, Sri Lanka: In a significant development for Sri Lanka's efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), the National Guidelines for the Management of Shelters for Victim-survivors of SGBV were recently launched by the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment, following Cabinet approval. This marks a crucial milestone in enhancing the quality of services for victim-survivors, addressing the current lack of regulatory oversight for shelter homes catering to SGBV victim-survivors.

These guidelines are the result of a collaborative effort led by the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, as a key component of the ‘Enabling Access to Justice for Victim-Survivors of SGBV in Sri Lanka’ project, a joint initiative with UNDP and UNFPA Sri Lanka, with funding from the Government of Canada.

"The National Guidelines is a critical milestone in regulating and streamlining the services provided for victim-survivors of SGBV. The Ministry will use this yardstick to ensure that these services are monitored and managed in line with the stipulated standards," noted Ms. Champa Upasena, Director Women’s Bureau of the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment.

The guidelines will establish a State-led management system to register, monitor, and enhance the quality of services for victim-survivors, particularly those experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) or domestic violence (DV), seeking refuge in shelters. This initiative will significantly improve access to justice by providing a regulatory framework for assessing and enhancing shelter services provided by both state and private entities. Management and monitoring structures will be established at the Divisional, District, and National levels, involving existing government officials such as Secretaries to relevant line ministries, representatives from the National Women’s Commission, Women’s Bureau, Police, and Probation Services.

Highlighting UNDP’s lead role in pushing this agenda, Ms. Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative, UNDP in Sri Lanka, stated, “Through the social dialogues that have accompanied the mobile gender exhibition supported by the Government of Canada, it has become clear that women and girls face greater risks at home, and are often left with inadequate support due to shortages of shelters and their lack of ability to provide a comprehensive support package. The cascading crisis that the Sri Lankan community has faced has elevated the relevance of the guidelines and it is our sincere hope that they will be a critical step towards ensuring that victim-survivors of SGBV have access to safe and supportive shelter services.”

Looking ahead, UNDP, in collaboration with the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs, and Social Empowerment, will conduct a nationwide assessment of all shelters against the new guidelines. This assessment will serve as a foundation for operationalizing the guidelines at the national and sub-national levels, ensuring that victim-survivors receive the quality services they deserve.

These guidelines signify a stride towards ensuring that victim-survivors of SGBV in Sri Lanka receive the support and protection they deserve. This initiative not only sets a new standard for shelter services but also underscores the collective determination to address SGBV comprehensively. Together, we are building a safer and more just future for all.