Sri Lanka female liquor ban violates international legal obligations: CPA

ECONOMYNEXT – Two fundamental rights petitions have been filed challenging the ban by Sri Lanka’s government on women buying liquor from taverns and working where alcohol is made, with one saying it violates the country’s  international legal obligations.

The petitions have challenged the validity of Excise Notification No 4/2018 of the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2054-42 issued by the Minister of Finance on 18th January 2018, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said.

A statement said the effect of the regulation was to reintroduce the prohibition on women to manufacture, collect, bottle, sell or transport liquor, the prohibition on women from being employed for manufacturing, collecting, bottling, sale or transport of liquor, and the prohibition on “giving” liquor to “a woman within the premises of a tavern”.

“The position of both Petitions is that regardless of whether a woman actually engages in these activities, her constitutional right to make that choice for herself should be respected to the same extent as that of a man,” the statement said.

The first petition was filed by five women on their own behalf and in the public interest and the second filed in the public interest by the Centre for Policy Alternatives and its Executive Director, Dr P. Saravanamuttu.

The petition alleges that the prohibition violates the rights guaranteed under Article 10, 12(1) and 12(2) of women.

“The prohibition is contrary to a range of commitments made by the government including at a minimum the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),” the CPA said.

“CEDAW fundamentally makes all forms of discrimination against women a breach of international law.”

The CPA said two key recommendations made in the CEDAW Committee’s 2017 report to Sri Lanka were to ensure the de facto prohibition of discrimination against women, and to review all legislation for conformity with CEDAW.

It was also recommended that the state accord statutory recognition to the right to equality and non-discrimination, and ensure that all CEDAW provisions are enforceable.





The CPA noted that in May 2017, Sri Lanka regained inclusion into the European Union’s (EU) Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+).

“The scheme vastly reduces duties on exports to the EU on the condition of improving compliance with 27 international conventions, including CEDAW.”

The CPA said Sri Lanka also adopted the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, in particular, Goal 5 seeking to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

“This includes commitments to end all forms of discrimination (5.1) and ensure that policies and enforceable legislation promote gender equality and empowerment (5.c),” the CPA said.

The government commitment to the goals in a range of domestic processes and government policy, and will be subject to international follow-up and review of the SDG commitments in coming years, it said.
(COLOMBO, January 23, 2018)

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