A tribute to Sunila Abeysekera

 

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Sunila Abeysekera, a champion of women’s rights and human rights in Sri Lanka passed away in Colombo at the age of 61. Ms Abeysekera was a tireless human rights campaigner, focussing particularly on the plight of people living in war affected areas. She also campaigned for women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights, the rights of communities such as sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS, and lesbian, gay, and transgender persons. She had been working with the Global Campaign for Women’s Human Rights, focussing on mainstreaming concerns of women’s human rights within the international human rights system.

During Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, Ms Abeysekera refused to take sides, denouncing abuses by both the government and the separatists. She remained fiercely committed to the rights of all civilians regardless of ethnicity. She faced death threats for her work in an environment which both during and after the war was dangerous for human rights defenders. In spite of these threats, she frequently took her message to the United Nations and other international venues, where she was a combative defender for justice.

Apart from being an iconic figure in the Sri Lankan human rights movement, she was a gifted singer as well. Her loss will be deeply felt by all within the Sri Lankan as well as the global human rights movement.

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