Publication Date


Document Type



Social Work

Publication Title

Women Deliver 2019 Conference

Conference Location

Vancouver, Canada




In 2013, over half of surveyed Sri Lankan men and women expressed gender-inequitable attitudes equating masculinity with violence, and femininity with obedience to men. Gender-inequitable attitudes have been shown to be linked to gender-based violence (GBV) in multiple contexts.
The goal of this research was to identify points of intervention at which programmes and policies could cultivate gender-equitable attitudes among youth in Sri Lanka, with a goal of reducing GBV in adulthood.
Over 9 months, the lead author interviewed 18 young adults (ages 18-30) in urban Sri Lanka to understand how their experiences influenced their gender identity, as well as their perceptions of gender norms.
Their responses were analysed using a directed content analysis approach to explore which factors have most influenced the processes of gender norm learning, acceptance, or rejection throughout Sri Lankan young adults’ lives.
Themes of Interest:
Single gender schooling reinforces gender-inequitable norms

  • Girls are groomed for domestic chores, while boys are taught skills for employment and to excel in science
  • Single-gender schools carry prestige and strong alumni networks that for some outweigh the negative gender stereotypes

Femininity and Masculinity are performed very differently in schools:
  • Boys are encouraged to play sports and display their physical strength
  • Girls are encouraged to read and study but be prepared to put their academic goals on hold after marriage

Schools are lacking strong sexual education and gender curricula:
  • Even in schools with curricula, teachers opt out because of discomfort discussing sex
  • Students are not prepared to negotiate consensual relationships or to identify gender-based violence

Educational settings in urban Sri Lanka contribute to and reinforce inequitable gender norms among adolescents and young adults. Some points of intervention are:
  1. Increasing interaction between single-gender school students of different genders,
  2. Challenging gender stereotypes perpetuated by students and alumni
  3. Developing and implementing strong sexual education curricula.


sri lanka, education, youth, gender norms, schools, urban, soth asia, qualitative, research, analysis, curriculum, electronics, felts, health occupations, impact, madicine, networks, sports, students, walls