Tuesday, May 21, 2024

52 per cent of Sri Lanka are women; yet only 12 out of 225 are in Parliament

Sri Lanka had caught the eye when it chose the first democratically elected female prime minister of the world—Sirimavo Bandaranaike on July 21, 1960.

Bandaranaike went on to serve three terms as the prime minister of Sri Lanka. Her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga, later became the first and only female president of Sri Lanka.

However, these are isolated cases in the history of the island.

In 2020, only 5.3 percent—12 out of 225 legislators—in the Sri Lankan parliament are women.

This in a country where 52 per cent of the population is women—55 per cent of the registered voters are fairer sex.

Sri Lanka ranks 182nd out of 193 countries on the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a global database that ranks countries by percentage share of women in the national parliament.

Among its South Asian neighbours, only Maldives has fewer women politicians in the parliament.

In 2016, Sri Lankan government introduced a 25 per cent mandatory quota for women to enter the local government. Prior to this amendment, only 2 per cent of women represented in the local government. In 2018, 17,000 of them ran for elections among 56,000 candidates for over 8,000 posts. Female representation in the local government thus skyrocketed from 89 to 2,300 in 2018.

Experts say there are three major structural limitations for Sri Lankan women entering politics. First, the education structure where girls are not encouraged to study. Second, political parties in the island nation have large barriers of entry for women; Third, women lack finances to run campaigns. It’s said an election costs about 25 million local currency to campaign in a district. A 2016 IPU study found that sexist remarks don’t help them.

Laws in Sri Lanka are gender-discriminatory: marital rape is legal in Sri Lanka; limitations to inheritance and property remain prevalent in the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA).

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