ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has proposed a new bill on gender equality and women’s empowerment to be submitted to Parliament soon in the island nation where violence against women are not considered a serious crime amid lethargic responses from law enforcement authorities for such violences.
Despite many decisions to empower women in the past, public at the grassroots have yet to see some changes in the violence against women. Many women victims harassed by men are reluctant to seek justice in Sri Lanka because most men are gender insensitive, analysts say.
Wickremesinghe urged the women’s parliamentarians’ forum to prepare the bill and emphasized that women’s representation should be increased not only in the Parliament but also in other sectors and the public sector as well as the private sector should focus their attention in this regard.
“We are drafting two acts related to Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. It is also proposed to establish an independent commission under the name of the National Women’s Commission to give leadership and make recommendations to the Parliament to intervene in matters relating to gender equality and women empowerment,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament during the Committee Stage debate for the Ministry of Women and Children.
Despite Sri Lanka being the first country to produce the first woman prime minister and president, most women are reluctant to join politics in the island nation in a patriarchal society despite more than half of the population being women.
Women are not only considered equal under the existing practices, but their rights are also usually violated by men due to gender insensitiveness, analysts say. There are only a handfuls of women at the higher level of top corporates.
The island nation has only 12 lawmakers in the 225-member legislature. Most women politicians say they are not given opportunities by their party’s counterpart men due to the patriarchal nature of the society.
Wickremesinghe’s last 2015-2019 government enacted a law to mandatorily allocate 25 percent of the local government seats to women from 2018 local government polls. However, no women were given opportunities for decision making.
“When we look at the estate sector, and garment factories, most of the employees are females but there is not a single woman director in them. Not only the Private sector but the government sector too has made the same mistake, as the scenario in the Corporations are the same,” Wickremesinghe said in his capacity as the Minister of Women Affairs and Children.
“We can address it by way of law. However, where the education sector, health and administrative sector are concerned, female representation is higher. But in the private sector, we don’t find this development and it should be improved. But when we look at the numbers receiving education, more than 50 per cent are female which is not reflected at the higher level of employment.” (Colombo/Dec01/2022)