Inequality and conflict in Sri Lanka have frequently been analyzed along ethnic lines. However, many scholars have stressed the importance of other dimensions of identity, such as gender, caste and class, in studying social tension. This study uses intersectionality theory to examine how a combination of the social categories of gender, race, ethnicity and location creates structural inequality. This article draws upon in-depth research on Muslim, Tamil, Sinhalese and indigenous/Veder women who catch and market fish in the conflict-affected eastern district of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. The focus was on intra-group differences among these women and the different sources of power they use to subvert existing power structures. Although multiple inequalities affected the respondents’ daily lives and participation in activities, they were not passive victims; they used their own agency to negotiate for their livelihoods. Nevertheless, the women who comprise the focus of this study appeared to be completely invisible to government fisheries management bodies. The lack of institutional representation has disadvantaged them in their negotiations for space to engage in livelihood activities. Registration of these women by the government department of fisheries among those who make a living from fishing would provide them with a first measure of recognition and empowerment, strengthening their chances of negotiating access to the fishery livelihood resources.
- Sri Lanka
- Women in fisheries