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Wednesday September 27th, 2023

Women nominees: Poor showing from major parties in run-up to Sri Lanka’s polls

ECONOMYNEXT – Since Sri Lanka produced the first-ever woman Prime Minister of the world in 1960 with Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s landslide victory, and one the world’s first women Presidents representation in Sri Lankan politics has taken a hit, to say the least.

With nominations being concluded for the upcoming parliamentary election, questions have been raised as to whether women are adequately represented in the nomination lists of major parties vying for power. As of now, the cabinet in operation led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa only has one female minister among 15 men.

In the eighth Sri Lankan parliament from 2015-2020, only 5.7% of members were female. Trends prove to be rather disappointing in the upcoming election as well, with less than the optimal number of females being nominated.

From the Colombo electoral district, the United National Party (UNP) leads the way in female representations with three women out of 22 nominees; namely, Sunethra Ranasinghe, Chandima Wijegunawardena and Ajantha Perera.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led Jathika Jana Balavegaya or National People’s Power (NPP) nominated two women out of 22 nominations for Colombo, deeming Samanmalee Gurusinghe and Niroopa Serasinghe eligible to contest.

However, there seems to be lamentable progress within the ruling party and the anticipated opposition.

The Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP)led by Rajapaksa and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa both nominated just one female each from the Colombo electoral district: Kariyawasam Haputhanthri Gamage Kanthi Kodikara and Hirunika Eranjalee Premachandra respectively.

In the Kandy district of the Central Province, only three female politicians have been nominated from the main parties. Shrima Shiranthee Kongahage from the UNP, Mangalika Samanmali Jayasekara from the  NPP  and Chandrika Senaratne from SLPP have been awarded nominations. Regrettably, the SJB has failed to nominate a female candidate for the district. The nominations of each party tolled up to 22.

The situation in the Galle and Matara districts in the Southern province is much similar to the figures observed in Kandy.

In Galle, the UNP and SJB failed to nominate any female candidates while the NPP led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake nominated two female candidates: Champa Sumudu Kumari and Wilegoda Mudalige Susan Weera Kumara. The SLPP managed to nominate one female candidate: Geetha Samanmalee Kumarasingha. The total number of candidates nominated by each party was 12.

In the Matara district, only the NPP succeeded in nominating a woman candidate; namely, Saroja Saavithri Polraj. The SLPP, UNP, SJB all failed to follow the NPP’s lead. The total number of nominations handed out by each party in this electorate was 12.

The Badulla electorate of the Uva Province showed similar figures, with only the SLPP nominating a single female candidate: Oshadi Hewamadduma from a total of 12 nominations. The UNP, SJB and NPP all failed to nominate female candidates for this constituency while each party put forth 12 candidates each to contest in the elections.

The district of Ratnapura in the Sabaragamuwa Province produced somewhat better results compared to the Uva Province, with four female candidates being eligible to contest. The UNP nominated Ruwini Thakshila Abemanna out of 12 nominations. The NPP, however, failed to nominate any female contenders, while the SLPP included two women in their list – current Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Muditha Prishanthi – in their 12 nominations. The SJB included former minister of Justice and Prison Reforms Thalatha Athukorala in their list of 12 contenders.

In the Anuradhapura district of North Central Province, the UNP and SJB nominated Kusum Rathnayaka and former minister Chandrani Bandara respectively. No other major political party has nominated a single female candidate. The total number of candidates nominated by each party is 12.

In Jaffna, two female candidates were deemed eligible: Vijayakala Maheswaran from the UNP and Bawadharani Rajasingham from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Disappointingly, no female contenders have been nominated by any major political party for the Batticaloa district in the Eastern Province. Only the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pilukal (TMVP) has nominated one female candidate, Mangaleshawari Shankar.

The numbers reveal a dire situation indeed. It is unfortunate that a once-progressive democracy appears to be going back in time when it comes to women’s empowerment and representation. It is time the public – over 50 % of whom are women – took note. (Colombo/Jul24/2020)



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Sri Lanka to have country pavilion at COP28 in bid for Climate Justice Forum

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has approved the proposal by its Minister of Environment to maintain a country pavilion during the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), to display “national level initiatives related to climate change”.

Sri Lankan delegates representing the country’s interests at COP28 in November are to present a proposal to establish a forum, with the aim of raising a “common voice” for the aspirations of developing countries in the global dialogue over climate change.

While attending COP28 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from 30 November to 12 December in Dubai, the Sri Lankan delegation is to present the proposal to the official body requesting permission for Sri Lanka to initiate a “Climate Justice Forum”.

The Cabinet decision said that the purpose of the forum is “raise a common voice regarding the aspirations of developing countries, together with countries that are more likely to be at risk due to climate change”. (Colombo/Sep27/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s sex workers face false charges: Women’s collective

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s sex workers have faced fundamental rights violations including unlawful detention and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, a representative of the Abhimani Women’s Collective said at a conference yesterday (26).

“Following their arrest, sex workers frequently experience the infringement of their fundamental rights, including the right to fair treatment, due process and protection from cruel and inhumane treatment,” said a report by the Abhimani Women’s Collective.

Soliciting on the street is currently illegal under section 7 1 (a) of the Vagrants Ordinance which criminalizes ‘any person in and about any public place soliciting any person for the commission of any act or of illicit sexual intercourse or indecency.

This provision along with section 2 of the Brothel’s Ordinance, which criminalizes the aiding and abetting of the management of a brothel, has been used to arrest sex workers in the country.

However, many sex workers claim that they have been presented before court on false charges of drug possession and have been subjected to harassment by both Police and customers.

“When inquiries are made over our arrest, the police say that we have been charged with drug possession,” Sakuni Mayadunna, a sex worker, said.

“Prostitution is not legal in Sri Lanka, so therefore, sex workers will face problems,” Chief of Police in charge of the Child and Women Abuse Prevention, Renuka Jayasundara, said.

“However, every citizen has fundamental rights in this country. We have not authorized the Police to carry out actions such as hitting detainees or not providing a female officer. If those actions happen, a complaint must be filed.”

Attorney-at-Law for the legal aid commission, Ganga Somarathna, said that the legal aid commission provides legal support for such victims whose income is below 45,000 rupees and also for women and children. (Colombo/Sep27/2023)

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Sri Lanka to introduce social security system: minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Labour minister has said that they are set to introduce a comprehensive national social security system, covering all workers.

“The system will address the weaknesses of the current system and provide much-needed support to workers and their families,” Manusha Nanayakkara, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment said on X (formerly known as Twitter).
He did not specify the details.

Nanayakkara also spoke of the need for robust social security when he met with exporters last week to discuss labor law reforms, boosting female workforce participation and attracting FDI.

Sri Lanka plans to reform labour laws for an export-oriented economy.

The pandemic and the economic crisis highlighted the need to improve the coverage of social security.

Studies have shown that Sri Lanka’s women are kept out of formal employment by childcare, elderly care and housework, as day care and elderly homes are either too expensive or too few.

The government imposed a Social Security Contribution Levy to increase its revenue last year. (Colombo/Sep27/2023)

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