The restrictions put in place by the Covid-19 pandemic have caused a lot of people to put their plans and dreams on pause. However, despite the obstacles the students of the first-year batch of the Department of Law, University of Peradeniya decided to go forward with its initial plans to make a difference by adapting to the “new normal” brought on by self-isolation and social distancing.
The project “Law for Life” was launched in line with the objectives of bridging the gap between law and society and creating a larger public debate on issues plaguing both society and environment at present. The very first webinar “Social Engineering Through Law” was successfully held on the 7th of February 2021 with the collaboration of the Law Students’ Association of University of Peradeniya. The event featured a panel discussion by Prof. Deepika Udagama, the Head of the Department of Law of University of Peradeniya and Ms. Shyamali Ranaraja, Attorney-at-Law, M.B.A.(Colombo) who shared their valuable insights into the concept of Social Engineering Through Law and opportunities available for law graduates respectively. The session was moderated by Ms. Piyumani Ranasinghe, Temporary Lecturer at the Department of Law.
In her session, Professor Udagama emphasized the importance of looking at the law from the point of view of humility and highlighted the role of legal professionals in bringing the people’s law to the people. She added that our lives were fashioned by three pillars, namely universal franchise, free education and free healthcare. Ms. Ranaraja highlighted the many opportunities available for law students and graduates in fields such as arbitration, mediation, journalism, conveyancing, academics and so on. She further added how important it is for lawyers to uphold the law, and how there is no finer yardstick than the constitution with which to measure our actions at every point of time.
The first webinar of the “Law for Life” movement was a success beyond imagination, with positive feedback from over 150 participants. The webinar achieved the goal of sharing more information about law to anyone who is interested, and the participant law students were able to learn more about the legal profession and its purpose. The project will continue more webinars on similar topics in the near future, and take this opportunity to invite interested personnel to join the “Law for Life” movement through webinars as well as social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook.
“Real change, enduring change happens one step at a time.”
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Gender inequality and discrimination against women in law are grave but remediable issues which have implications for the equal participation of women in the economic, social, political and cultural spheres of the country. The initiative of “Law for Life” was launched with the hope of contributing to the cause of remedying issues such as these through raising awareness and creating a space for public debate and civic-driven change.
“Women in Law”, the second webinar organized by the first-year batch of the Department of Law in cooperation with the Law Students Association of the Department of Law at the University of Peradeniya was aimed specifically at empowering women and girls whilst highlighting the importance of law as a tool to combat such issues. The International Women’s Day, celebrated on the 8th of March was also a major reason why the organizing committee decided to select this theme for the webinar. The webinar was successfully held on the 28th of March and was well-attended with the participation of more than 80. The online event featured a panel discussion by four esteemed speakers, all of whom are highly accomplished women within their fields. The panel consisted of Mrs. Farzana Jameel, the Additional Solicitor General at the Attorney General’s department, Professor Carmen Wickramagamage, a Senior Professor in English at the University of Peradeniya, Mrs. Marini De Livera, an Attorney-at-law and the Founder and Chairperson of Sisters at law and Dr. Ramani Jayasundere an Attorney-at-law and the Director of Justice and Gender programs in The Asia Foundation. The session was moderated by Ms. Tharusha Deegala, a third year undergraduate from the Department of law, University of Peradeniya. In her session, Mrs. Marini De Livera highlighted the practical constraints on women’s enjoyment of legal protections afforded to them, the importance of promoting of Human rights and the role of young women lawyers in the exercise to make Human rights a reality for all members of the human family. She went on to say that development, peace and Human Rights are parts of one triangle and that in the absence of one, the whole triangle would collapse. Mrs. Farzana Jameel discussed the limitations placed on women in personal laws, challenges faced by women in legal practice and the importance of female legal practioners. Some of the key takeaways from her discussion are the importance of tempering equality with equity which comes from society’s acknowledgment of the more complex and difficult roles played by women and men and the need for women to work together and strive for excellence (not perfectionism) in order to combat issues faced in legal practice. Dr. Ramani Jayasundere touched upon factors which prevent women from joining, staying and contributing optimally to the workforce, in both the formal and informal sectors. She emphasized that all Sri Lankan women must take their obligation to contribute to the economy and development seriously (especially as beneficiaries of free education) for the “cause” of creating enabling spaces for women in employment and to bridge gaps in labour laws.
Professor Carmen Wickramagamage on the other hand elaborated on the possibility of and bars to achieving gender justice, effective implementation of law and legal protection of women in Sri Lankan society where there’s undue emphasis on “Culture”, of which women are considered to be the primary repositories. She ended her discussion on the note that budding female lawyers have a role to play in changing this culture of impunity.
Accordingly through “Women in Law”, the second webinar organized as part of the Law for Life movement, the participants were able to gain valuable insights into the status of women’s rights in Sri Lanka and the ways in which the general public could contribute to ameliorate this status. The organizing committee plans on taking up such interesting issues including environmental protection & Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms in future and extends this invitation to all interested parties to make suggestions for future webinar topics and join the Law for Life movement through social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.