ECONOMYNEXT – A move by President Maithripala Sirisena and a male dominant cabinet of ministers to reverse a decision by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera to give equal status to Sri Lanka’s women by lifting sexist regulations was defended on health grounds by a male minister.
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, a minister who usually fearlessly defends equal treatment for men of all faiths and races, said he was opposed to giving the freedom for women to buy alcohol, or work in liquor sales outlets. The cabinet of ministers had also called on he finance ministry to re-impose the regulation, he said.
As health minister he had backed moves to curb cigarette and alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka but a circular that allowed women to buy the alcohol went against the image of the administration, Senaratne said.
"Women were already buying alcohol, nobody stopped them," he told reporters at the weekly cabinet news briefing.
"So all this was un-necessary for one thing. Second this is not the West, and Sri Lanka is not just city women. I know what our village women want we interact with them in elections."
British liberals gave universal franchise to Sri Lanka’s women before many other countries, due to the actions of women activists such as suffragettes.
Slavery was also abolished after hard negotiations with Sri Lankan slave owners, compensating them with cash on some cases.
A lady journalist charged that the gender bias and sexism of the President in his call to reverse Samaraweera’s decision presumed that women were incapable to making their own decisions.
Minister Senaratne pointed out that many women did not smoke or drink in Sri Lanka despite not knowing the law, contradicting the presumption of the President and the cabinet of ministers.
Senaratne rejected charges that that the President Sirisena wanted to keep women as second class citizens.
He said murder was also outlawed, though the argument he was making was not clear.
An online petition has already been started on change.org by activists against the President’s call to reverse impose the discriminatory rule.
Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva said in a twitter post that both men and women must be banned and women alone should not be discriminated. (Colombo/Jan19/2018)