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Proposed Adolescence Health and Youth Development Centre in Colombo, Sri Lanka

History of Perception of Sexuality

Sachintya Rajapakse

Liberal Buddhism
The Early Spread of Buddhism
Buddhism was prominent in communities of Merchants as Buddhist moral and ethical teachings were found very simple to understand by the Merchants, thus Buddhism became an attractive alternative to the mainstream mysterious rituals of the traditional Brahmin priesthood, which seemed to cater entirely to Brahmin interests while ignoring those of the new and emerging social classes. As Commerce and Cash became increasingly important during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E., Merchants proved to be an efficient vector of the Buddhist faith, as they established diaspora communities in the string of oasis towns-Merv, Bukhara, Samarkand, Kashgar, Khotan, Kuqa, Turpan, Dunhuang - that served as lifeline of the silk roads through central Asia. Because of the liberal and carefree life style of communities of Merchants, sexual behaviour was accepted as a part of life. Most variations of Buddhist teachings do not go into details or specific for what is right and what is wrong in what it regards to ordinary activities of life. The most common formulation of Buddhist ethics are the Five Precepts and the Eightfold Path, one should neither be attached to nor crave sensual pleasure. These precepts take the form of voluntary, personal undertakings, not divine command or instruction. The third of the Five Precepts is To refrain from committing sexual misconduct. It says not to commit misconduct, not conduct. However, the sexual misconduct is such a broad term and is subjected to interpret relative to the social norms of the followers. In fact, Buddhism in its fundamental form does not define what is right and what is wrong in absolute terms for lay followers and it is mainly focussed on conducts of Buddhist monks. Details of accepted or unaccepted human sexual conducts are not specifically mentioned in any of the religious scriptures in Pali language.

Sigiriya frescoes

Pre-Colonial Period of Sri Lanka


Sigiriya Frescoes The most renowned features of the Sigiriya Complex are the fifth-century paintings found in a decline on the rock face about 100 metres above ground level. Isurumuniya Lovers

6th Century Gupta style carving piece found in Isurumuniya demonstrates a woman seated on a mans lap, lifting a warning finger, probably as a manifestation of her coyness; but the man carries on regardless. The figures may represent Dutugemunus The most logical and acceptable interpretation is son Saliya and the law caste (Sadol Kula) maiden Asokamala for Coomaraswamys identification of the Sigiriya women as whom he loved and gave up the throne. However, this carving Apsaras is a common motif in the religious and royal art of Asia. reflects the liberal perception towards sexual behaviour at that Apsaras Arc is often represented in art and literature as celestial time. beings who carried flowers and scattered them over kings and heroes as a celebration of victory and heroism. Conclusion: However, that the Royal ladies and their costumes and The beauty of sexuality has been admired and exaggerated ornaments would have provided models for the Sigiriya artists, before the Colonial period, therefore it can be concluded that thus the paintings reflect the life and atmosphere, the ideals of Buddhism was very liberal those days, especially since Sigiriya beauty and the attitude to women, of the elite society of the was a Buddist Monastry. time.

Sigiriya frescoes

Isurumuniya Lovers

Kandyan Culture
Kandyan Law of Marriage
all legal connections and rights to her ancestral property mainly because of her union with a different family to bear children who will belong to different gens. The basic essence of such Marriages under Customary Kandyan Law a marriage is that the brides family, gifts the groom, a dowry In customary Kandyan Law, marriages were generally governed representing her share of the parents estate and she is taken by tight social rules. These rules were set to protect family and away to the grooms household. In customary law, if a woman property. Marriages were contracted with the intent of preserving married in her own accord her marriage would be one of diga. the good name of the family. Thus the marriages between a Binna Marriages: man and a woman of different castes were prohibited and were regarded as criminal offences. Strict rules were enforced with In contrast, under the binna concept the groom is brought regard to the succession rights of children of such marriages or into the household of the Bride. In this situation the husband cohabitations. is virtually at the mercy of the wife, her parents, her brothers (if such marriage was contracted by the brothers after the death of the parents) or her children of a previous bed, such marriage can be terminated at the wish of the parents or the brothers or the children. However, if the parents of the woman arranged such marriage the brothers cannot terminate such marriage without the consent of the wife if the parents be dead. Types of Marriages A binna married daughter is for all purposes is considered as a son and becomes an heiress to the family estate. A binna The types of marriages amongst the Kandyans are diga marriage may be contracted in respect of certain property only. marriages and binna marriages. In customary law the rights and In such instances the daughter is considered as a binna married obligations of the parties are dependant upon the type of the daughter in respect of that property only and in respect of all marriage. The traditional position relating to marriages under other property she is considered a diga married daughter who Kandyan Law is as follows. has lost her right to succession. Marriages were so loosely contracted in the Kandyan system that Knox states Marriages are contracted in a wink and dissolved with a kick. Both women and men do commonly wed four or five times before they can settle themselves to their contentation. Diga Marriages: Under the diga concept the Bride is escorted from the house of her parents to that of the Husbands. She becomes part of the family of the husband while the marriage subsists. She severs subject to all her whims and caprices; she may even order him out of her house at any time he happens to incur either the displeasure of her parents or which is more frequent, the jealousy of herself. The right to expulsion was also exercised by the brothers, and at times by the children of the wife by a former bed. The position of a binna husband was, under all circumstances, a precarious one; whence had arisen the old Kandyan adage that a husband settling in binna should always have ready at the door way his walking stick, a torch, and a talipot, articles of travel, indispensable to an emergency, for he may be unceremoniously turned out at any moment, no matter at what time of the day, and in what weather, he would have to depart and find his way out. Cohabitation with the Intent of Forming a Definite Union In early Kandyan culture, the intention of forming a definite union was generally derived from the marriage ceremony. However it seems that the system recognized that in the absence of such wedding ceremonies such intent was gathered from habit and repute. The Niti Nighanduwa states that when a man who is married according to proper customs, against the will of his family, leaves his wife for another woman, and lives with the latter, the children of such second union are considered as illegitimate. Similarly when a married man has clandestine intercourse with a woman who comes to lodge in his house and does not publicly marry her, children of that union are considered as illegitimate

In a binna union, the wife is the head of the household. The whole property, movable and immovable is subject to her To prove a regular marriage, usual traditional ceremonies must will, while the husband has no control over any portion of it be observed. Gifts being sent by the intended grooms family to during her lifetime. He is, besides, bound to obey her, and is the brides, matching of Horoscopes, the bride being conducted

to the grooms residence etc. There are many cases cited in Sawers digest to suggest that if the above rituals were performed then a definite union was established. This traditional position seems to show the social significance of marriages. Families tended not to recognize marriage unions between parties they were not ready to welcome into their own clans. Thus originally the performance of these rituals was the source of establishing a formation of a marriage union. Although ceremonies were an important aspect of the formation of the union, it was not essential in proving a valid marriage.

proposed marriage. Once the proposal was made and if the horoscopes matched the marriage arrangements were finalized and auspicious day was set for the bride to be escorted to the grooms residence. When the grooms party was at the gate of the brides house, he sought the permission of her massina (Mothers brothers son or Fathers Sisters Son) to enter the household. During the ceremony the bride got on to the Poruwa guided by her uncle (Mothers Brother or Fathers Sisters Husband, whose son had the right to marry the Ewessa Nena). This indicated that he had renounced his right to enforce marriage of his son to the bride and that he approved such Parental Consent marriage. Amongst the poruwa customs, the offering of the Kiri Kada Hela (A white cloth ) to the Brides mother (if she be dead The marriage of a man with a woman of an inferior caste to to a maternal aunt) by the groom was of special significance. himself was prohibited and was considered as a criminal This symbolized that the groom appreciates the manner in which offence for the reason that it brought disgrace upon his family. the mother had brought up her daughter. Once the ceremonies When a woman degrades herself by having connections with a were over the Bride and her entourage was escorted to the man of a lower caste than her own, her criminality cast a stain grooms household. on her family which, formally could only be obliterated by the family putting her to death; but this they could only do with the The Custom of Polygamy and Polyandry consent of the King. This was avoided by the king by taking the woman to himself as a slave or by sending her to one of the Under customary Kandyan Law a man was permitted to have royal villages. many wives at the same time. Similarly a woman could have many husbands at the same time. Further, Niti Nighanduwa The consent of the parties to the marriage does not appear states that it was also possible for two or three men to have to have been a requirement of Kandyan law and no reference two or three wives in common. could be found to such requirement in any legal text. With regard to the age of marriage, the Niti Nighanduwa as well as all The rationale for the existence of such custom in the Kandyan other texts are silent on the matter. customary law seems to be the protection of hereditary property. Since property was considered highly valuable the devolution of Rituals Performed at a Customary Marriage property amongst many was avoided as much as possible. Traditionally, the families sent proposals to the intended in laws Niti Nighanduwa states after the parents have given their with regard to the proposed union. Daughters were under daughter in marriage to a man, that man, either to obtain the control of the head of the family and had no say in the assistance or to prevent a division of the estate may enter into

an associated marriage. It further states that when intending to do so the consent of the wife is mandatory. Generally associated marriages were practiced amongst siblings where two or more brothers were in a polyandrous union with one wife or vice versa. The practice was so common that it is assumed when two or three brothers live together in one house possessing land in common, and when one marries in diga the children born to such wife, while living in that house, are considered as children of a polyandrous union. If a man consents to be married in a communal marriage to one wife with a man who is not his brother, even with the consent of the wife, the consent of the wifes parents must be sought. If either party does not consent and is unwilling to be in a polygamous or polyandrous union he or she may separate himself or herself from the other spouse and it shall be viewed as a divorce.

Change of Customs

low country Sinhalese now form a distinct class as opposed to the Kandyans by which term the inhabitants of the interior are By Ordinance No 13 of 1859, the custom of polyandry and generally known. Transition of the term Sinhalese Law to Kandyan Law polygamy were banned in the Kandyan Provinces. Inter alia the preamble to the 1859 Ordinance states that the concepts of Whereas it was agreed and established by a Convention signed The Sinhalese laws were applied to all and where ever the lawful polygamy and polyandry are not suited to the Kandyan society at Kandy on March 2, 1915, that the dominion of the Kandyan authority of the Sinhalese king was extended even to Tamils at that time in 1859 and is against the Buddhist philosophy. Provinces was vested in the Sovereign of the British Empire, and Muslims living within the Kandyan Kingdom. Thus, it can be saving to all classes of people in those Provinces the safety of concluded that the Sinhalese laws and customs were in force The Sinhalese of the maritime provinces being brought their persons and property with their civil rights and immunities within the territories to which his reign extended. Although, by into continual contact with Europeans and other strangers according to the laws, institutions, and customs established and association with the Europeans, some portions of the Sinhalese adopting. dress and customs of the invaders became in force among them of the Maritime Provinces adopted the laws of the Europeans somewhat differentiated from those of the interior, so that the as their governing law. There is nothing to suggest that the Dutch applied Roman Dutch Law to all native Sinhalese inhabitants of the Maritime Provinces. But it is widely accepted that Roman Dutch Law was applied to Dutch and other European settlers, the natives working and living within the Forts and the natives who adopted the religion of Christianity. Many believe that the British gave a wider recognition to Roman Dutch Law than the Dutch themselves did. By accepting Roman Dutch Law as the common law of the land, the natives of the Maritime Provinces were governed under the Roman Dutch Law and not under their own customs and rules. However, the Muslims and the Tamils were spared from the application of Roman Dutch Law as the Dutch had codified the Muslim Law and the Thesavalamai. Thus, the Sinhalese laws prevailed only in the unconquered Kandyan Kingdom. Over the years, the Sinhalese laws were termed Kandyan Law as practiced by the citizens of the Kandyan Kingdom only. As Haley states,
British Agent J.P. Lewis with Kandyan Noblemen in 1903

Banning of Customs

And whereas the custom of the Kandyans .... permits a man to have more than one living wife, and a woman to have more than one living husband And whereas this custom is wholly unsuited to the present condition of the Kandyans, and is in no way sanctioned by their national religion. And whereas from the circumstances mentioned the marriage custom of the Kandyans has (sic) become a grievance and an abuse, and a large and influential portion of the Kandyan people have petitioned for the redress and reform of the same. And whereas it is expedient, in order to such redress and reform, that Her Most Gracious Majesty should, in accordance with the said Convention, make provision through the Legislature of this Island for the contracting and solemnization of marriages within the said Provinces, and for the registration of such marriages, and for the dissolution of such marriages, and for other matters relating to the same However, Modder citing Digby in Life of Sir Richard Morgan states that there was no widespread desire amongst the Kandyans for a change and that the people had never heard of the proposal until the passing of the Ordinance in 1859. It is said that a little deception was practised on the occasion referred to. A number of very aged Kandyan Chiefs, to whom, in the course of nature, marriage must be of very little concern, waited upon Sir Henry Ward and asked that all marriages in the Kandyan Provinces might be restricted and registered. This was gravely cited as an expression of opinion in favour of the Ordinance. No wonder the late Lord Lytton was amazed and sceptical. Experience had shown that there was at that time, not only no wide spread desire among the Kandyans for the change, but that in many outlying districts, at some little distance from the central capital, the people had never heard of the proposal, until after the passing of the Ordinance No. 13 of 1859.

British Colonial Period


New Rules and Victorian Morality New Rules
Under new rules, Sri Lankan were forced to embraced Victorian based culture. On the other hand, people who believed that culture of the invaders was superior to their own rejected their own genuine values and imitated external features of the foreign culture. Further, the low cast people embraced foreign culture as a defensive means to relive from the negative features of existing Fiduciary system. As the perceptions changed, the customs also appeared to change. represented the fallen, sinful, and lustful creatures, wrongfully the property of their husbands who had the right to keep them taking advantage of the fragility of women. under lock and key. Prudish and sexually-repressed ideas led Victorians to cautiously guard themselves against any temptation, no matter how slight. Male chastity belts or similar contraptions were put on young men by their parents who thereby hoped to prevent them from masturbating. Also a medical and moral campaign was waged around the sexuality of children. One nineteenth century doctor invented a device which administered electric shocks to a sleeping boys penis upon erection. Female chastity belts were put on women by their husbands who kept the key, thereby hoping to prevent her from committing adultery in his absence as this custom illustrated that wives were

Victorian Morality
Victorian morality is a representation of the moral views of people living at the time of Queen Victorias reign (18371901) and Victorian morality can be described as a set of values that adopt sexual restraint, low tolerance of crime and a strict social code of conduct. Victorian era is a time of many disagreements such as the widespread development of an outward appearance of dignity and prohibition of social phenomena such as prostitution and child labour.

Victorians were inevitably led to the consummation of their love and the creation ones own home and family. Sex and sexuality, then, were unavoidable issues for the Victorians. Earlier on in the century, women were considered the weaker, more innocent sex. She had little to no sexual appetite, often capturing all Male chastity belts the sympathy and none of the blame over indiscretions. Men

Female chastity belts

British Colonial Period


Britains breaching the agreement established at the 1815 convention, led to the Uva rebellion but it was successfully seized by the British army. Democratic elements were first introduced to Sri Lanka in 1833 which changed Sri Lanka culture upside down as fiduciary system (rajakari kramaya) was banned and people were allowed to lead a free life style, leaving no privileges to the Nobles. By 1875, with the growth of plantation economy, a new class of local rich nobles started to emerge. These nobles embraced all the external value of the British rulers as they started to lead a Victorian life style as it was considered a prestige to them. As the local nobles adapted to the systems, they started collaborating with the British. Towards the end of the 20th century, the Sri Lanka nationalists movement was started by the local nobles with the aim of making the faiths more contemporary in the wake of European colonialism and defending traditional Sri Lankan culture against the impact of Christian missionaries. The logical progression was to demand greater Sri Lankan participation in government. As the nobles demanded more local representatives in the government, new conditions were brought upon to reform the existing systems in 1889, 1910 and 1923 and Universal Suffrage was introduced in 1931. However the nobles soon split along ethnic and caste lines as they were more eager for power rather than trying to develop the nation as a unit anymore. Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) became fully independent on 4 February 1948 and the British System or the Westminster System was adopted by Sri Lanka. The British preferred Sri Lanka as a holiday retreat island and the value of things that were given to Sri Lanka by the British

was way more than what were taken from us as an enormous development in plantation economy, transportation, trade, communication, literacy etc was noticeable. The advanced and developed Clothing industry in India was purposely completely destroyed by the British and made them import clothes from Lancashire but Sri Lankans never had problems like that. While Indian people had prolonged struggles for independence mingled with both violence and non-violence, it was more of smooth transfer of power by continuous constitutional changes that lead to independence in Sri Lanka. While this lead to less violence and bloodshed as the British listened to the nobles demands and also developed the country economically, this mode of independence guaranteed that the power of colonial rulers are smoothly transferred into the hands of their local agents or nobles.
Don Solomon Dias Bandaranayake Kadirawelu Nawasiwayam

K. Thyagarajas Cargills Walawwa Cinnamon Garden

Motor vehicle of A.J.R. de Zoysa

Victorians and Evolution

The term sexual revolution dates back to Freuds writing in the 1900s. The period 1910-1920 brought the new woman who worked, thus had more economic independence, making In all stratified societies there are two major social groups her less reliant on her husband or father. The resulting freedom called a Ruling Class and a Subject Class. The Subject Class is made them going out with friends, smoking, drinking, dancing oppressed and exploited by the Ruling Class with their power and wearing makeup developing their own identities. from its ownership and control of the forces of production, thus the resulting tension causes a basic conflict of interest between By 1930 sexual behaviour seemed liberal and was seen more as a pleasurable activity as birth control clinics were legalized the two classes. and greatly advertised in the market. In 40s and 50s Critical thinking and questioning the existing system led to Kinsley, a scientific researcher, published two surveys on the social conflicts appear from the grassroots level which made sexuality of the human male and female. In 1951, Swedish reconstitution of society at large over successive generations filmmakers produced a film called Hon Dansade en Sommar eventually resulted a social evolution. As collisions of groups which, translated, means She Danced a Summer. This filmed with different opinions create new philosophies, new cultures, showed what at the time was considered rampant sexuality. new thinking patterns and liberal approaches started to appear. This, and other films of the same content, led to the filming of In the early to mid 1900s a cultural movement called the sexual pornography and the first issue of Playboy in December 1953 revolution began. People developed a belief in peace, unity, and sold out in weeks. Also, this led to the popularity of strip-teases most importantly: free love. The idea of free love expanded into and lap-dances in bars, and gentlemens clubs. the acceptance of sexuality in our society today In the 60s, people were able to publish sex manuals, or nonfiction books based on the sexuality of humans. The birth

control pill, or The Pill, developed in the 1960s. This lessened the risk of impregnating women, and changed the outlook of intercourse being merely for procreation. Due to wide availability of sex and sexual content, and the accessibility of contraceptives by the 1970s, the majority of newlywed couples did not marry virgins and birth control allowed people to have intercourse without worrying about unwanted pregnancies. Teenagers fought for their right to have sex. Sexuality as a whole rampaged across the globe, but especially in America and Europe. Today it is not nearly as taboo to discuss ones sexuality and sexual education has become more important. More advances have been made in terms of birth control which have increased safety and effectiveness. Though there are still stigmas around negative sexual practices, theres a lot more acceptance.

1920s style

1930s style

1940s style

1950s style

1960s style

1970s style

Post Colonial Period


Post Colonial Period
Under the Westminster system, the main political parties came to the power as their agendas and principles were proven by the public. The reduction of the power of the Communists / Socialists, led them to join the main political parties changing their own principles which destroyed their identity. On May 22, 1972, the new Constitution was passed by the members of the Parliament by which Ceylon became the Republic of Sri Lanka. The inauguration of the republic completed the independence as Sri Lanka was now a free, sovereign and independent country with own Head of State. The Executive Presidential System introduced in 1978 increased the power of the President and ensured he remains in power for a long time. The President was unquestionable by anyone or not ruled by the law thus doing whatever he needed thus too much power was concentrated in one single person. After 1978, every successive President has been wielding the powers of Executive Presidency to his or her personal glorification and to the detriment of the electors. Up to 1977, almost each time Sri Lanka went to the polls, the public voted a new Party into power mainly because the current party had not kept its election promises, but with this new system, it made impossible for an opposition to rise. In this regard, in 1971 and 1988-1989, JVP insurrection emerged with bloodshed but they were defeated by the government forces and in 1983, LTTE emerged which caused significant hardships for the population, environment and the economy of the country, with an estimated 80,000100,000 people killed during its course till they were eradicated after 30 years.

Current Situation
Being short of collisions of thinking patterns and evolutions led to a public lack critical thinking and further after a 30 years of depression of war, a large section of public specially the whole rural area believe what they are told by the mainstreams without questioning the existing system. The Government is too powerful that their approaches cant be changed by the public who are active and further they dont want to have more unnecessary problems by changing the deep rooted culture. The religious groups also have a great influence on the society today. The act brought in 1995 to legalize abortion was turned down by the Cardinal Malcom Ranjith and the Sri Lankan Christian Society though it was approved by the Cabinet. Most of the Buddhist monks also make sex a taboo saying that its our culture WHICH IS NOT, mainly due to lack of critical thinking about the history. Thus the topic SEXUALITY stays as a taboo in a large section of the society.