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Mar 07, 2017

Ministers unite to prevent 25% female quota

One of the biggest victories Sri Lanka achieved in enhancing gender equality is last year's legislation ensuring that women receive a quota of 25% in local councils. However we now celebrate women's day amidst attempts by several Ministers and MPs to roll back this victory. What is ironical is that a number of MPs from Colombo and the hill country, who were elected by marketing the sufferings of women, are leading the campaign to reinstate the proportional representative system that is directly linked with reduction of female representation, CaFFE executive director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon said.

"Sri Lankan women were able to vote long before women from some European countries. We were able to elect the first female Prime Minister. But now less than 5% of total elected representatives are women. In 2016 we celebrated world women's day pointing at the 25% quota, a year later there are no elections and attempts are rife to repeal the legislations," Tennakoon said.

He added that there were a number of proposals to increase female political representation during the discussion on 20A to the constitution. But those proposals were stifled by some male political leaders who insisted on 'broad constitutional reforms'.

Tennakoon stated that a number of mainstream political parties are attempting to prevent women receiving a 25% quota in local government bodies. "Apparently some political parties can't find women who are willing to contest. How are these parties representative of the communities they claim they represent?" he said.

CaFFE Executive Director added that detractors claim a 25% female quota will increase the number of representatives in local councils, leading to an increase in expenditure. "Of course this will lead to an increase of representatives. Did these people not realize this when they supported this legislation last year? Of course they knew, what these people want is to keep on delaying elections," he said.

Gender equality is the fifth sustainable development goal. Sri Lanka has seen the most significant widening of the gender gap between 2006 to 2016 and male dominated policy making is the main reason for this.

"Holding election under the PR system will ensure that women will not get a 25% quota. Some political parties that cant find female candidates are attempting to constantly drag Sri Lanka away from sustainable development goals. The PR system distanced women from the political system leading to a vicious cycle. Those who want to hold on to the PR system are those that benefit from this vicious cycle," he said.

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