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Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka’s women are deprived of positions in political power yet again

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s general election dawned at a crucial time of extreme uncertainty and precariousness. The island’s political, social, and economic spheres have been dismantled by an unexpected global pandemic that drove the country into a political limbo with the dissolution of Parliament.

The task of untangling the island from its woes has now been handed over to a male-led parliament elected by the general public ostensibly upholding the true values of a  democracy. In contrast, Sri Lanka’s female demographic which constitutes 52% of the population is left under-represented in parliament, forgotten, and deprived of positions of power and access to the national decision making and policy implementation process, yet again.

At present, Sri Lanka is ranked 182 out of 193 countries on the inter-parliamentary union of rankings which assesses the percentage share of women in national government[1]. In the previous parliament 13 legislators, or rather a handful of 5.8% of 225 MPs represented the voice and needs of 52% of the population. Moreover, there was only one woman under the age of 40 in parliament that represented the needs of young women.  The newly elected parliament boasts a grand total of one cabinet and two female Ministers of State with five more female members of parliament being elected by popular vote. Moreover, SLPP, SJB, and NPP have collectively appointed four female representatives through their National Lists.

The World Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum ranked Sri Lanka amongst the top 20 countries in 2006. However, Sri Lanka has drastically slipped in the rankings and has descended to be ranked 102 out of 153 countries in the year 2020 despite performing well on other indicators such as health and education. In 2006 Sri Lanka ranked 84th on the economic participation and opportunity sub-index while in 2020 we ranked 126, slipping 42 places. Moreover, wage equality for similar work has degraded by 27 places since 2006 from being ranked 55 to being ranked 82. Further, Sri Lanka has performed poorly on the political empowerment sub-indicator ranking 7 in 2006 and 73 in the year 2020. Even though Sri Lanka has ranked 9 on “years with a female head of state” indicator it should be noted that the index takes into consideration countries with the most years of a female head of state in the past fifty years. As this is a large time frame it does not necessarily reflect consistency in female political empowerment, especially in the Sri Lankan context. [2]

Why does female representation matter?

The World Economic Forum states that women are underrepresented in the political sphere globally, with women only making up 23% of national parliamentarians. This severe underrepresentation has an empirical correlation with policy choices and adverse consequences in women’s and children’s welfare. A study by the World Economic Forum addressed this issue by analyzing gender representation in local municipalities and the provision of public childcare in Bavaria.

To assess the effect female councillors would have on public childcare a study was carried out to compare the expansion of public childcare across municipalities that have similar characteristics but differ in their share of female councillors. Results emphasized that one additional woman in the local council accelerates the expansion of public childcare by 0.4 spots per 1,000 inhabitants or by 40%. Moreover, a comparison of over 7,700  minutes of council meetings displayed that one additional woman translates to child care being spoken of more frequently and that it creates the ambience for other female councillors to voice their opinion confidently and to play a more active role in the process of policymaking and implementation. [3]

These findings are relevant to Sri Lanka now more so than ever as Sri Lanka has seen a spike in the number of child abuse and violation of child rights reported in the year, highlighting the lack of female perspective in the policymaking process.

Furthermore, Sri Lanka is no stranger to policies and laws that are excruciatingly gender discriminatory. Marital rape being legal under the penal code which dehumanizes the “role and duty of a wife”, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) of 1951 that has a multitude of discriminatory provisions with regard to marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance, property rights and access to justice for Muslim women, discriminatory principles in the Kandyan law on divorce and inheritance, limitations on property rights applicable to women in Jaffna under the Tesawalamai law, mammoth taxes on menstrual hygiene products that are considered a luxury despite 4.2 million menstruating women, 14 year justice struggle for victims of rape, lack of incentive provided for women to enter into the labour force resulting in only 34.3% of females being economically active , failure and delay of the government in midst of the COVID 19 pandemic to repatriate migrant workers that mostly comprise of women who are Sri Lanka’s highest foreign exchange earners, lack of a monitory body/mechanism to assist families and children of migrant workers are just a few amongst a host of gender insensitive and discriminatory laws and policies that haunt the quality of life, day-to-day activities, and even threaten the very lives of women across the island. It takes no expert to identify that much-needed reforms have been conveniently pushed under the rug over the years due to lack of female perspective and representation in positions of power and parliament where laws and policies are debated and solidified.

Laments of local females aspiring to shatter the glass ceiling

A glance at the number of female contestants from each major party in the recent general election depicts the difficulty female would-be politicians face in being nominated as a candidate. With the motive of addressing these issues and ensuring women representation in local government, Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act, No. 1 of 2016 was introduced which presented a 25% mandatory quota for women. The practicality of abruptly coercing women into positions of power was lost in this attempt. Candidates were provided with zero training and preparation to enter into local government, despite years of convincing them that their expertise lies within the boundaries of a kitchen. Moreover, the lack of preparation in this regard resulted in priority being given to relatives and close associates of politicians overlooking qualified and competent candidates.

Since Sirima Bandaranaike’s debut, Sri Lanka’s lineage of female leaders has repeatedly painted a dramatic chronicle of the devoted woman, who steps out of their male counterpart’s shadow in the case of his demise to dutifully carry on the legacy of the deceased. This narrative does not only rob these females of an authentic career and individuality but also leaves a permanent imprint of pedigree that doesn’t necessarily reflect the aspirations of the average woman. Moreover, this phenomenon compromises the quality of leadership as overnight shifts to the political sphere has a certain degree of risk attached to it.

Women continue to be severely underrepresented due to the unequal access to finances and resources needed to successfully seek nominations and to participate in electoral campaigns. According to research conducted by UN Women in 2013, over 80% of respondents identified the lack of access to funding as one of the biggest obstacles for women to participate in a political competition (Ballington and Kahane, 2014). Politics and campaigning is a sphere dominated by big money and more often than not the economically disempowered woman is ruled out from this rich man’s club. According to Lihini Fernando, a UNP municipal councillor from Moratuwa it costs Rs.25 million roughly to campaign throughout the district.[4] Strong female candidates such as Rosi Senanayake too have stated that financial pressure is a huge burden carried by women that are less likely to have sponsors.[5] Moreover, females employed in the corporate sector, activists, legislature experts, etc are disincentivized to enter into politics due to the high costs involved both financially and otherwise.

Psychological, sexual, and physical violence against women swamps the arena of politics. Sexually provocative comments publicly directed on new media, abuse from traditional media, the pressure to conform to a subordinate, the stereotypical image of an ideal woman, threats, and physical violence scourges the day to day experiences of a woman contesting to enter into government.

Reform Recommendations

Despite Sri Lanka ratifying the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and enshrined its commitment in the Women’s Charter of Sri Lanka (1993) and the National Plan of Action for Women (1996) reflecting constitutional and international commitments to securing the rights of the woman, the country is yet to implement progressive reforms that will increase women’s participation in the democratic process.

Sathya Karunarathne is a Research Executive at the Advocata Institute.

Advocata is an independent policy think tank based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It conducts research, provides commentary and holds events to promote sound policy ideas compatible with a free society in Sri Lanka.



[1] Inter Parliamentary Union , Women in International Politics, February 2019. (Accessed, August 14, 2020)

[2] World Gender Gap Report 2016/2020 , World Economic Forum (Accessed, August 14,2020)

[3] “This is the Effect Female Politicians have – and Why We Need More of them”, World Economic Forum,Feb 19, 2020, (Accessed, August 14 2020)

[4] What is holding back Sri Lankan Women from Entering into Politics, Economy Next. Mahadiya Hamza, July 27,2020. (Accessed 14 August, 2020)

[5] Women’s Representation and Participation in Formal Politics, Groundviews, Daisy perry, October 6, 2018. (Accessed August,2020)

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Paris Club proposes 10-year moratorium on Sri Lanka debt, 15 years of debt restructuring

ECONOMYNEXT — The Paris Club group of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s prevailing currency crisis, India’s The Hindustan Times reported.

While the Paris Club has yet to formally reach out to India and China, Colombo has yet to initiate a formal dialogue with the Xi Jinping regime, the newspaper reported on Saturday December 03, inferring that the chances of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approving its 2.9 billion dollar extended fund facility for Sri Lanka in December now ranges from very low to nonexistent.

“This means that Sri Lanka will have to wait for the March IMF meeting of the IMF before any aid is extended by the Bretton Woods institution,” the newspaper reported.

“Fact is that for Sri Lanka to revive, creditors will have to take a huge hair cut with Paris Club clearly hinting that global south should also take the same cut as global north notwithstanding the inequitable distribution of wealth. In the meantime, as Colombo is still to get its act together and initiate a dialogue and debt reconciliation with China, it will need bridge funding to sustain the next three month before the IMF executive board meeting in March 2023. Clearly, things will get much worse for Sri Lanka before they get any better—both economically and politically,” the report said. (Colombo/Dec04/2022)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon tea prices up amid low volumes

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka tea prices picked up at the last auction in November amid low volumes, brokers said.

“Auction offerings continued to record a further decline and totalled 4.2 million Kilograms, of which Ex-Estate offerings comprised of 0.6 million Kilograms. There was good demand,” Forbes and Walker Tea brokers said.

“In the Ex-Estate catalogues, overall quality of teas showed no appreciable change. Here again, there was good demand in the backdrop of extremely low volumes.”

High Growns

BOP Best Westerns were firm to 50 rupees per kg dearer. Below best and plainer types were Rs.50/- per kg easier on last.

Nuwara Eliya’s were firm.

BOPF Best Westerns were firm to selectively dearer. Below best and plainer teas declined by 50 rupees per kg.

Uva/Uda Pussellawas’ were generally firm and price variances were often reflective of quality with the exception of Select Best Uva BOPF’s which were firm and up to 50 rupees per kilogram dearer.

CTC teas, in general, were mostly firm.

“Most regular buyers were active, with perhaps a slightly more forceful trend from the local trade,” brokers said.

Corresponding OP1’s met with improved demand. Well-made OP/OPA’s in general were fully firm, whilst the Below Best varieties and poorer sorts met with improved demand. PEK/PEK1’s, in general, were fully firm to selectively dearer.

In the Tippy catalogues, well-made FBOP/FF1’s sold around last levels, whilst the cleaner Below Best and cleaner teas at the bottom appreciated. Balance too were dearer to a lesser extent.

In the Premium catalogues, very Tippy teas continued to attract good demand. Best were firm to selectively dearer, whilst the Below Best and cleaner teas at the bottom appreciated

Low Growns

Low Growns comprised 1.8 million Kilograms. Market met with improved demand, in general.

In the Leafy & Semi Leafy catalogues, select Best BOP1/OP1’s were fully firm, whilst the Below Best/bolder BOP1’s were barely steady.

Low-grown teas, farmed mainly by smallholders and exported to the Middle East and Central Asia, are the most sought-after and expensive Ceylon Teas.

Low-grown CTC prices have gained this week to 982.80 per kilogram this week from 934.76 per kilogram last week.

Few Select best BOP1s maintained, whilst best and below best were irregularly lower. Poorer types maintained.

BOPF’s in general, firm market.

FBOPF/FBOPF1’s select best and best increased in value, whilst the below best and bottom held firm.

Selected best BOP1’s maintained, whilst best and below best were irregularly lower.Poorer types maintained.

OP1’s selects best together with best and below best were firm to dearer. Poorer sorts were fully firm.

Medium Growns

BOPF’s, select best gained by 50 rupees per kilogram. Others maintained.

BOP1’s select best dearer by 100 rupees per kg whilst all others moved up by 50 rupees per kg.

OP1: select best gained by 100 rupees per kg whilst all others dearer by 100 rupees per kg.

OP/OPA’s in general, dearer by 50 rupees per kg whilst the poorer sorts were firm.

PEK’s Select best gained by 50 rupees per kg whilst all others maintained. PEK1: In general, dearer by 50 rupees per kg. (Colombo/Dec 04/2022)



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Sri Lanka Ports Authority East Terminal contractor paid: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ports Authority had paid a deposit for a gantry crane and made the required payment for the contractor to complete building the East Container Terminal, Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said.

The East Container Terminal, a part of which is already built is being completed as a fully SLPA owned terminal at a cost of 480 million dollars Ports and Shipping Minister de Silva said.

“ECT we are funding with money available in the ports authority,” he said.

“Up to now we have paid an advance for the gantry crane. And for the construction we have paid all the money agreed with the contractor. So that is going on well.”

Sri Lanka is undergoing the worst currency crisis in the history of the island’s soft-pegged (flexible exchange rate) central bank which has created difficulties in funding the project.

“Every penny we collect as dollars we are keeping them separately and utilizing that for the Eastern Terminal work,” Minister de Silva said.

“We are confident that the ECT will be completed within the envisaged time. It is a difficult task in view of the dollar problem.

Banks were also not releasing the dollar deposits of the SLPA earlier but are now doing so, he said.

“Our deposits in banks they have utilized for urgent other national purposes,” he said.

“So they are releasing that money slowly. I am happy that they are releasing that money little by little. So with that we will be able to manage that.”

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