Sunila Abeysekera (1952 – September 9, 2013) was a Sri Lankan award-winning human rights campaigner. She worked on women's rights and human rights issues in Sri Lanka and in the South Asia region for over 20 years as an activist and scholar. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented Abeysekera with a United Nations Human Rights Award in 1999. She was also honoured for her work by Human Rights Watch.
Since 1992 Abeysekera has been working with the Global Campaign for Women's Human Rights and has been actively working in lobbying at all the UN Conferences since then – 1993 in Vienna and 1995 in Beijing –focusing on the issue of mainstreaming women's human rights concerns within the international human rights system.
Abeysekera died in Sri Lanka on September 9, 2013.
In 1994 Abeysekera received an M.A. in Women and Development from the International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, Netherlands, and won that year's award for the best research paper.
The major themes of Sunila Abeysekera's work include issues of equality and difference in understanding women's human rights and in promoting equal treatment for women; problems of re-conceptualising the nation-state and principles of good governance from a feminist perspective; problems of representation of women in art and culture; and feminist film criticism.
In Sri Lanka, Abeysekera worked with the Women and Media Collective, which does national level organising on women's issues, with a special focus on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. The political participation of women and ending violence against women are two key areas of her work. She also works with cultural workers and cultural groups to develop and create new ways of expressing themselves through the media and the arts, including work on critical cultural theory.
"Women and the Media in Sri Lanka: The Decade from Nairobi to Beijing," in Facets of Change. (Sri Lanka: CENWOR, 1995). CENWOR - Centre for Women's Research
"Women's Human Rights: Questions of Equality and Difference," (MA Thesis) (The Hague: Institute of Social Studies, 1994).
"Representations of Women in the Sinhala Cinema." Cinemaya: Indian Film Journal (1996).
"Organising for Peace in the Midst of War: Experiences of Women in Sri Lanka," in From Basic Needs to Basic Rights. Ed. M. Schuler. (Washington DC: Women, Law and Development International, 1995).
"The Abortion Debate in Sri Lanka," in Reproductive Health Matters. (London: 1995).
"Consolidating Our Gains at the World Conference on Women's Human Rights: A Personal Reflection." Canadian Women's Studies Journal 15 (Spring-Summ 1995).