Sri Lanka urged to ensure higher women’s presence in Parliament

Sri Lankan Parliament (File Photo and oly for representation purpose)  

Sri Lanka, known for its impressive track record in human development, however, fares poorly in women’s representation in Parliament.

Pointing out that there are only 10 women Members of Parliament out of a total 225 MPs, a report by the Commonwealth on the 2015 general elections in Sri Lanka asked the government to ensure that women’s participation is increased.

“The law does not provide any quota for women’s participation and representation in politics at the national level,” said the report, which was prepared by the Commonwealth Observer Group.

“Incorporating mandatory quotas for women candidates on party nomination lists or in national lists is one way to ensure that women’s representation in Parliament is increased.”

Of 6,151 candidates in the fray during last year’s general elections, 556 were women, according to the report.

Women’s quota

Asked about the suggestion for women’s quota, Jayampathy Wickramaratne, a constitutional expert and a Member of Parliament, said initially, this could be tried out at the levels of local bodies and provincial councils. “We need to discuss how it [the concept of quota] can be used at [the level of] Parliament.”

He acknowledged that in the present system of preferential voting when even candidates of one party compete with each other, women are at a disadvantage. Speaking in the context of the ongoing process of constitutional reforms, he said: “If you are going to have constituencies, then there can be more women.”

On the conduct of last year’s elections which saw an overall turnout of 77.66 per cent, the Commonwealth Observer Group commended the country’s Commissioner of Elections and his office for “having maintained high standards of fairness” and the police for enforcing the law and ensuring a peaceful election. Among the Group’s recommendations was a call for reconsideration of restrictions on campaigning methods. Also, there was a suggestion for legislation on campaign finance.

Asked about the turnout of women voters, Rohana Hettiarachchie, Executive Director of the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections [a civil society organisation], said going by a general yardstick, the turnout of women electors was in the range of 80-85 per cent.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 9:17:27 PM |

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